January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

Attitude Towards Arts and Sports
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Attitude Towards Arts and Sports

Dr. J. N. Manokaran

Art is the vehicle of information, entertainment, social transformation, biblically asserting, now, even a tool for worship.

 Arts, crafts, architecture, artistic designs, communication arts like script writing, dance, music, songs and poetry, sports, etc. fall in this category. Arts represent and reflect the culture of the people who constitute it. Artistic expression is a divine gift from God. In the Bible, we read about great song-writers like Miriam, Moses, David, Solomon and many others. Psalms and other poetical books constituting Wisdom Literature hold a renowned and incomparable place in world English literature. God gave Bezaleel skills, knowledge and abilities to do the work of designing and crafting for the tabernacle (Exo 31: 1,-11). Sometimes prophets conveyed their message through artistic expression. Ezekiel symbolized the exile though the medium of drama (Ezekiel 12: 1-6). David organized choirs for singing praises to God (cf. I Chro 15: 16f). He danced in the presence of God (I Sam 6: 14). Solomon’s temple was exquisitely worked and royally furnished (II Chro. 3 & 4), with master craftsman and skilled laborers putting in their hard toil. 

However, the Jews did not nourish and cherish arts.  “Given to the prophetic strictures against idolatry, Judaism was largely aniconic at least until the period of the Second Temple, privileging the word rather than the image.”  Yet the tabernacle and temple tradition had aesthetic arts. 

Arts has strong theological basis. The two main bases for arts are the creation and incarnation.  God did not create the world in ’black and white’ but in splendid colors.  The world is full of beauty, design and color and so is heaven. In creation there was no dichotomy between spiritual and natural.  Adam was not instructed to differentiate between secular and sacred or natural with spiritual. Incarnation is the affirmation of that which is natural.  When Jesus Christ became man, he affirmed the nature.  

We should not forget that the Bible celebrates the arts.  Story is the content basis for theatre, drama, movie or for a rap.  The Bible has several remarkable narratives, historical events and stories.  Prophet Ezekiel enacted the siege of Jerusalem to the children of Israel.  Tabernacle is a symbolic theatre.  Poetry is another expression of arts.  The songs in the Bible have both the positive elements of human experience as well as the negative. Psalms occupies the central part of the Bible.  It is essential to evolve the theology of pleasure.  Songs of Solomon celebrates human sexuality.  Ecclesiastes is the review of life, and does not end with hope.  

Christian artists should create something credible.  Some of the themes of art are common in all cultures.  First, Love is the most common theme of arts. People need love and have a sense of belonging.  The second great theme in arts is the identity.  It answers the questions: Who I am and what is my significance?  The third theme is the survival instinct.  It includes sex.  The fourth great theme is transience.  Human beings are incurably religious.  They believe in transcendence.  Irrespective of faith and persuasions people believe in transcendence.  The fifth great theme is desire for immortality.  The sixth is the desire for pleasure. The seventh theme is hope which is essentially Christian core message.   A Christian has message in all the above themes that can be presented credibly.

Job of a Christian Artist

1. Celebrate

Christians should celebrate art. God is the creator and his creation in his image also is creative.  So art is a creative expression of human nature.  Hence, it is right to celebrate art.  Only a Totalitarian State does not tolerate creativity and freedom.  Creativity has to be expressed in creative ways and in numerous ways.  God is God of beauty, love and celebration. A Christian artist should celebrate his/her calling as an artist.  

2. Integrity

A Christian artist should be honest and truthful and also realistic. There are some Christian writers and novelists, whose stories are predictable and do not appeal to non-Christian audience.  Such story has always a ‘fairy tale’ type ending that the characters became Christian.  Such stories are not realistic but idealistic.  The characters should reflect the lives of ordinary people struggling in an imperfect world.  The book of Job is a splendid example for being realistic and authentic.  In all areas of arts, Christians should endeavor to be realistic, honest and truthful.

3. Analysis and interpretation

Prophets in the Bible were real artists.  They were able to analyze and interpret situations – social, economic and political.  Isaiah’s words expressed emotions and were full of rhyme and poetry.  Prophet Nathan narrates a story – which is artistically designed to convey the message of confrontation and judgment to King David.  (II Samuel 12)  The parables of Jesus are Master pieces that analyze the life and presents spiritual truths.  

4. Innovation

Christian artists should not follow trends but should be trend setters.  They should learn to think outside the ‘box’ i.e. paradigms.The Bible has different kinds of genre.  The styles of the biblical writers were different.  Innovations should be culturally appropriate.  Sharing the Biblical values, teaching truths, engaging children, inspiring young people using modern technology could be innovation adventure.  

5. Discipline

Christian artists should be disciplined in such a way that they are single minded.  All great artists were incredibly singleminded.  The saying goes: ‘Success is one per cent inspiration and ninety nine per cent perspiration.” The Christian artists should be possessed by a creative compulsion. Half-hearted works can never be excellent.  Aiming for perfection is a Christian virtue, ethical and of  great value. Christian artists should excel and produce the best as all things are done for the glory of God.  

6. Holy and Godly life

A Christian artist should lead a holy and blameless life.  Deep spirituality is the well of all creativity. The more intimate the communion with the Lord, the more effective would be the piece of art they produce.  Moses received the Pattern of the Tabernacle from the Lord.  Noah received the design of his ark from the Lord.  

Sports

Broadly speaking sports also comes under the category of arts.  Athletics and games are found in all cultures.  Sports has several advantages – like developing social skills like team work, the ability to compete, be disciplined, to learn to persevere, opportunities to prove loyalty and to work towards goals or success.  In countries like USA, sports were used as tool to develop the lives of children and young people.  However, the sports today have been commercialized and the ‘sportsman spirit’ is missing, resulting in envy, using slangs, getting involved in violence, using unfair means like taking drugs or underplay by getting bribe.  

Sports could be a good tool for outreach as several ministries have used it around the world.  Christian sports professional have a great opportunity to share in from various platforms.  This is also an excellent venue to model Christian values to the watching world.  

In some places, sports professionals are treated like demi-gods.  Being fans of such sports personalities is not a preferable or a noble choice for a Christian.  

Some commercialized sport events mislead and misguide young people.  IPL cricket matches in India are organized exactly during the exam dates of school going children.  This distracts many children and young people that they fail in their exams. The cheer leaders are immodestly dressed when compared with cheer leaders in the West.  Media fails to promote more egalitarian sports like football and hockey instead focus on promoting an elite sport like cricket.  

Being obsessed with sports events kills a lot of time. A whole day could be wasted by watching some cricket matches which is not right stewardship for a Christian disciple. After seven or eight hours the result of the match fits in one page of computer screen.  

Healthy and Unhealthy Engagement

Sports and video games should be engaged with intelligently.  Some young people are obsessed with their bodies.  In fact, the prevailing philosophy of Postmodernism encourages youngsters to worship their own bodies.  The market driven cosmetic industry has increased manifold in the last decade.  Beauty parlors have become part of the shopping complexes and malls.  Gyms are places of attraction for fitness freaks.  Paul writes that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:19).  It is essential to take care of the body by needed exercise, balanced diet and hygiene.  However, being obsessive about food, looks, muscles etc is a mere waste of time for one who is called for higher purposes.  A fit body to do what we are called to do is what needed.  

Digital Technology

Digital technology has brought games even into small gadgets like mobile phones.  Instead of reading books, young people are on their mobile phones playing games.  Entertainment and not education is the purpose of all these games.  It has adversely impacted lives of people.  Young married couples expected to be like love-birds, play Angry Birds become like angry birds.  

Some video games are soft pornography.  Those kinds of games corrupt the minds of young people. The Times of India reported on 5 September 2011: “As they shop for toothpaste and sunscreen many people are picking up sex toys from retail outlets as well.” DNA India reports: The family protection survey by e-security firm McAfee covered 500 children in the age group of 4 to 12, and 496 parents. Of the children surveyed, 21% said they access adult content online. The survey was conducted across New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Ludhiana, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Cochin. Mumbai, has the dubious record of the maximum number of children, 40%, accessing adult content online.  Now Online addiction is a new form of addiction apart from alcoholism and drugs.  “But the third edition of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report confirms our worst fears: that we’re too wired, too dependent on our gadgets, networks and Web services, and are unapologetically addicted to our digital extension.”   Digital media has become part of their being.  May be we have to state: body, soul, spirit and digital section.  

 There are videos that promote violence, which also is dangerous to the thinking pattern of young people.  Some games like this could numb the senses of people.  They may not be sensitive to other people needs, instead develop sadistic and hedonistic attitude.  

Challenge

The best writers that rule the English literature today are Indians and writers from the Indian sub- continent.  Salman Rusdhie, Naipaul, Vikram Seth, R.K. Narayan, Arundati Roy, Jumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai etc.  Where are the Christian artists and writers in India? Arts can either be used for the God’s glory or for evil purposes. Christians should transform the field of arts with their godly and divine influence.

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