Apologies for my extra long blogging break! I have returned!
Today I’m going to borrow a bit from The Little Mermaid and talk about the Church’s stance when it comes to the arts. Trust me, there is a connection.
As you watch The Little Mermaid, you discover that Ariel loves everything from humans – a world her father has forbidden for very good reasons – they eat fish! Her life is in danger if she is around humans, and he has made a blanket ban on anything relating to humans.
Ariel, though, ignores her father’s orders. She collects human artifacts that she has found within the sea. Knowing her father’s stance on the matter, she stores them all in a secret grotto. Here she can revel in her collection without fear of being scolded, judged, or punished.
King Triton finds his daughter’s secret grotto, and he does what he thinks is best to protect his daughter from the dangers of the human world – he destroys it. Unbeknownst to him, the enemy is watching the entire showdown, and uses the explosive episode to lure Ariel away from the safety of her father. It lands her into a horrible trap, and the rest of the movie follows Ariel and her family trying to reverse it.
So, why did I just give you a rundown of a Disney classic? Because it hit me one day that the Church has done the same thing with the arts.
Art, music, dance, drama – there is a place for it within the church. They are powerful tools, and the secular world has embraced them enthusiastically. The arts tend to draw a different crowd, and the majority of them do not embrace the Church. There is unfortunately an ugly side to the arts that can be used by the enemy to draw people away from the Lord. The arts are fascinating and powerful, and can be dangerous and offensive if the artist chooses. As a result of this odd little bundle that the arts represent, the Church chose the same path that King Triton did in the movie – they kicked them out. To protect everyone, it was just best not to do that. Period.
In the years since the Church rejected the arts, it has realized that was a mistake. They have reopened the doors to the arts, set guardians to protect against the ugly side of things, and hoped for the best. But the history is still there, and it is clear that in the majority of churches across America today, that the arts are still not fully trusted. They’re welcomed at certain times of the year, and then they’re bottled back up and not mentioned again.
I happen to be an individual who has lived in the grotto. It wasn’t a secret, because I was blessed to be in a church home that welcomed my gifts and abilities. But it was still different. And it’s different for anyone who wants to do something in the arts – play a different kind of music, paint for a living, perform in community theater, or be a dancer. Those are all perfectly acceptable things, but they’re not the run-of-the-mill Sunday morning fare. And because of that, it’s either pushed to the side, ignored, or rejected. It’s sad, but true.
The arts are powerful means of media that can be used to draw people to Jesus. But, first, we have to get the Church to accept that we don’t have to live in the grotto in order to please them. Not everyone will patiently wait for their turn in the Church. Some will decide to leave the safety of the Church forever because the people don’t want them. They will use their gifts wherever they can be accepted – bars, clubs, Hollywood, and Broadway. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of Jesus there.
Don’t exile your secret grotto people, Church. Embrace them, love them, and use them. If you don’t, they’ll find another audience that will. Sadly, the enemy is waiting to steal someone else away. Don’t let anyone else be drawn into an elaborate trap that could be avoided.