Beauty, Kitsch, and Theology

Beauty, truth, excellence are hard; they cut through encrusted bullshit. And if you open your heart to beauty, truth, and excellence, they will not let you off the hook. They will haunt, afflict, beset you.

One of the pernicious dimensions of the da Vinci Code phenomenon derives from the extent to which both its conspiratorial advocates and its horrified detractors occlude the truth in the interest of upholding something they want to be true; the element of wish-fulfillment prevails over critical questions relative to the narrative’s beauty (despite the frequent concessions that “it’s a good thriller,” I found the book tediously flat and predictable), its truth (despite the proud assertion on the front page, there is hardly a shred of truth to it), and its excellence.

They like it, or they can’t stand it, but questions of truth get derailed by the strength of people’s desire to believe one thing or another.

“Liking” is easy, though, and “opinion” is cheap; anyone can like something, everybody’s got an opinion. Though one would like to like what is beautiful, and to hold true opinion, one’s preferences and opinions don’t depend on truth or beauty.

“Liking” doesn’t exclude loving, knowing, appreciating — but if one always only likes, one forgoes the opportunity to gaze into the truth, to work into love.

If I understand theology correctly, we have the opportunity to endeavor one of the hardest things people can venture, to witness the beauty of the gospel, to share the truth of the gospel, to participate in the excellence of the gospel — but these require something more than liking Christian faith.

1 thought on “Beauty, Kitsch, and Theology

  1. Truth & beauty, as you say, make demands on us. Demands for our attention, for our thought, for our struggle, finally. My first writing teacher Fred Ewoldt told me way back in high school to never take the easy way out of a poem or a story. If you do take the easy way out, Fred would say, you cheat the reader, but mostly you cheat yourself.

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