18 June 2016

Christianity Has Lost Its Aesthetic Spirit

In Christendom today, the sacred must struggle to contest with the profane and secular, which infiltrate all aspects - aesthetic, cultural, spiritual - of its believers.

If you, as merely a casual observer concerned with only your five physical senses, look upon the Christendom of the past twenty years, and compare it against the preceding eras, the difference is stark and vast. The soaring towers that once characterized the West's cathedrals and abbeys are being usurped by squat, smooth rectangular abominations of concrete and metal that speak more to the self-indulgence of architects than to the glory of God, Christ, and the saints. Modern churches, even the 'mega church' buildings of the present age, are assembled in months by construction crews who view it as simply another project. They might as well be building a sports stadium or apartment complex.

Traditional cathedrals were multi-generational undertakings, and the men who laid the foundations knew they would not live to see its completion. However, they did understand that their children or grandchildren would be able to worship there. Traditional Christendom looked simultaneously to its origins in the past and to its future. Cathedrals were also an exercise in civic spirit, as stonemasons, smiths, and carpenters across the land would come together in order to pool their talents in service to God.

Beyond even the changes in architecture, Christianity's music of worship has been fundamentally transformed by the profane. Walk into any modern ostensibly-Christian church, and you will find a "praise band", complete with a drum kit, electric instruments, wireless microphones, and a PA system to amplify the cacophony. If you ignored the lyrical content, the music would not be much of a departure from an outdoor music festival, or a pop-country radio station. Gone are the reverent harmonies of choirs, the vibrant tones of bells, or the majesty of a pipe organ; all have been replaced by what is essentially a sing-along childrens' concert. I was raised in a church whose hymnals contained songs that were written no later than the early 20th century, with complete musical notation. Having attended services in other churches that would be considered mainstream, these pop-country performances, often replete with clapping, swaying, disgustingly breathy falsetto, and spoken-word introductions, make an utter mockery of masculinity and of God.

Christianity's physical and auditory decline can be traced to its relatively recent desire to be accepted and popular by the society around it, rather than to stand apart from a sinful, fallen world. It has given up critical components in order to appeal to a consumer palate, primarily one of women and non-believers. It has chosen to make the flock larger, rather than to strengthen the flock it already has. Just as modern Churchianity seeks to redefine concepts like headship, worship, and even church itself, it manifests a bastardized aesthetic.

But fear not, dear reader; though the so-called followers of Christ have strayed from the straight and narrow path into secular rot, there is salvation in the past. Christendom must look to Eastern Orthodoxy as a return to the core of Christianity. The trappings of modernity are cast off, and the aesthetic is both one of glory, and one of true craftsmanship. You will hear no amplified guitars, no applause after hymns are sung - only clear, strong, virile voices and perhaps the ringing of bells, all echoing through a church built for the purpose of honoring God.