I read an a blog entry on "Christian art" today. The argument that I think is more palatable when it comes to art, is that any art is a representation of the human who "made it", just as the natural world testifies to God. The meaning is there and by it's very proximity to the human being, it is sacred, as it is communication.
In the Reformation, early Reformers destroyed many works of art, thinking that they were being obedient to the commandment to have no images of God. However, all images are representative, so, it is not reasonable to say that we must do away with images. And since man is made in God's image, we cannot destroy man, can we?
The argument in Christian circles centers around cultural values and virtue. All of us would agree that pornography is not appropriate for anyone. However, there are variations in our abilities to tolerate certain art forms. Some Christians have forbidden dance, as sexually titilating or T.V. as "worldly". All of these convictions are based on a false fear of the "world" and a hyper vigilence to not be associated with the things of the world. The things of the world are not "sinful" in and of themselves, it is what we do with those things, and what those things do to us. Virtue is not just about what we don't do, but what we do do. Are we tolerant towards those who have differences of opinion, Do we allow them freedom to worship as they deem fit? Is there a proper form of worship? And how do we determine these things? Scripture, when scirpture was written before certain "modern inventions"? Church authority, when Church authority are falliable human beings? or science?
Modern psychology has proven that certain art forms have an effect on people. Is this wrong, and is it understood as "sin"? If so, why? Where are the "lines" of a tolerant attitude to those who differ? Of do we only define virtue as conformity to a certain way of life?
Certainly, society's best interest, as well as the individual's good is in view when discussion is made about these issues. And as I mentioned earlier, pornography would certainly not be beneficial to either society or the individual. But, what about nude art forms? Is the body seen as beautiful as a form, or is the body seen as evil and suggestive in and of itself? I find it hard to argue from reason that the body is evil in and of itself.
Back in 1990, when my husband was attending a conference in southern Germany, the spouses were touring all of the churches in the area. There was a particular Jewish lady that asked me a question that I will never forget. She asked why the Church would spend all the money on the extravagence to embellish the churches, when there were people starving. I told her that if someone has the gift of painting as Rafael, or Micheangelo, should they be stewards of their gift in worshipping God through it, or should they feed the poor? She agreed that it would be a terrible loss to culture if they had inhibited their gift for what she had understood to be virtuous.
Virtue is seen in many forms and should not be limited by religious understandings, but is most understood and experienced in our government's unity in diversity.