I had an epiphany of sorts the other morning. Maybe more of a realization. My issues with what passes for Christian art and culture is that of cuteness. I’m thinking primarily of the Preciouos Moments kids, to a lesser degree Thomas Kinkade and others who would peddle cuteness in a Christian pseudo-/sub-culture. I would lump in Veggie Tales in there too but that is geared toward kids even though parents enjoy it as well. I still, on occassion get those silly songs stuck in my head. I readily admit guilt on that point. But remember, Bob and Larry are for the kids!
The Precious Moments kids may have passed their high point amongst evangelicals. However, the fact that the company has a park and chapel in Joplin, MO makes me think a certain affinity is still found in evangelical circles. The cuteness of those tear dropped eyed children is hard to miss. I’m not against cuteness per se, it is that cuteness has its ; limits. Those limits are usually childhood and maybe into the early teenage years in their appeal. Eventually you need to grow up. I can’t even imagine such a cute medium to express certain truths found in the Bible. A Precious Moments version of ’Job’ or crucifix, anyone? How about tear drop eyed Paul after receiving 40 lashes? Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Using cuteness to portray the biblical narrative betrays the very reality scripture seeks to present. In so many ways this is the worst sort of lie. It is a deception that sugar coats and white washes the reality of the world and the reality of God. The cross of Christ is beautiful, but to make it cute or gilded is to take away from the roughness of the wood that our Lord hung on.
Likewise, Thomas Kinkade is in similar territory. Self described as the painter of light, his images seek to appeal to simplicity but in some respects are simplistic. The images are familiar, the cabin in the woods with fireplace light shining through the window or the ethereal light of a sunrise/sunset bathing a garden in an other worldly glow. Again, I’m not against portrayals of light or the goodness of creation. My issue is that a world is portrayed that in no way reflects reality. Though not as explicitly cute as Precious Moments, Kinkade panders to such sensibilities to support the ideals of a conservative evangelical pseudo-/sub-culture. At best, his art portrays the dying breaths of a church culture fading away. At worst, such art betrays the radical grace and love of the living God and the wild passion He has for creation and humanity.
Maybe I’ve become jaded the older I get. The continued embrace of cuteness at the expense of not growing up and wrestling with one’s faith will lead to perilous and unintended consequences. We will continue to avoid the goodness of the world and live as if God is not there. We will seek to isolate ourselves from the pain and injustice because it isn’t meeting our standards of holiness. We’ll continue on in our little Christian ghettos with under developed faith because we fear contamination. We need to break out of our holy huddle and love the world God loves. The good news is, we get to.