My review of Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer

Art & the BibleArt & the Bible by Francis August Schaeffer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been hearing about Francis Schaeffer for the last 25 years as one of the leading theologians to come out of the Jesus Movement of the early 70s. I eventually got around to reading him. The book is a collection of two essays on art and the Bible and what is meant by ‘Christian art’. The first essay ‘Art in the Bible’ was very disappointing. But perhaps this is because I am not the target readership. It appears to be aimed at the sort of evangelical Christian who needs a Biblical mandate to do anything from riding a bike to shopping at Asda. Do we really need to have ‘proof texts’ to allow us to create art and use it in a Christian context? Apparently so, and Schaeffer has done a good job of searching the scriptures to find them. However, I remind myself that if people like Schaeffer had not gone about stating what the majority of Christians today consider to be ‘obvious’ Protestantism and the Evangelical movement might still be imaginatively impoverished. Some would say it still is, but thanks to Schaeffer perhaps not as much as it was. The second essay ‘Some Perspectives on Art’ is a lot better. It gives a framework in which art can be appreciated and judged from the perspective of the world view of the artist. He also challenges the other Evangelical preconception that the only art forms that are permissible in a church environment are the Hebrew / Jewish ones we see in the Bible. So in the 80s instead of doing the old grapevine to ‘How good and how pleasant it is’ we could, if the beat allowed it, have done the quick step or the pogo ;)There is some good stuff in this second essay for anyone interested in faith and the arts, but please be aware that it was written to Christians 40 odd years ago who needed ‘permission’ to do what we do quite naturally now. I also disagree with his emphasis on propositional art – ie ‘art with a message’. Although he says that artists are free to create art with or without a conscious message or have ‘religious’ content, his theory that an artist cannot operate independently of her world view dilutes this. I am now reading Steve Turner’s ‘Imagine’ written 28 years after Art and the Bible. Turner is a student of Schaeffer’s and I am very interested to see how his teaching has impacted the thinking of the next generation.

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Mamphela Ramphele and The Peace Garden

I’m very happy to see that Dr Mamphela Ramphele, the partner of the late Steve Biko, and former managing director of the World Bank, is standing for the presidential candidature of the Democratic Alliance in South Africa. Her autobiography, ‘A Life’, had a profound impact on me when I first read it 15 years ago and was the inspiration for much of the middle section of my novel ‘The Peace Garden’. The character of Poppy Fakile is loosely based on her experiences as a young woman. Do read it, it’s inspiring (Dr Ramphele’s book, not mine – but hey, if you want to read mine too, go for it!)
Here is The Peace Garden on Amazon or from the Crafty Publishing website. If you buy it from the Crafty website I can sign it to you or your loved one if you leave a note …

You can’t judge a film by its cover: Black Snake Moan

craig-brewer-black-snake-moanMy husband and I recently watched a film on his iPhone during a weekend away (both of us thought the other one was bringing the DVD for the hotel DVD player). After moaning about the size of the screen I finally settled down to watch the flick. It was called Black Snake Moan with Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson, written and directed by Craig Brewer. The hubby warned me that the content was ‘raw’ but that if I stuck it out I would really enjoy it. He said it’s a lot deeper than it looks. Well true to his word, the content was very raw. Sex, swearing, nudity and domestic violence – not my usual content of choice. Without giving too much away, naked women and chains feature prominently. And yet, it turned out to be a bitter-sweet tale of redemption and one of the more ‘spiritual’ films I’ve seen in a while. This film speaks more eloquently of God’s love and forgiveness than most of the stuff you may be unfortunate enough to stumble across on the God Channel. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Christian characters in the film portrayed as pretty normal folk and not self-righteous hypocrites. Afterwards I looked up the film on the internet and had a good laugh at the cover and poster. If I’d seen that before seeing the film, I doubt I’d have agreed to watch it. Just shows, you can’t judge a film by its cover. Nor, for that matter, a human being.

36th Anniversary of Soweto Riots

fiona-veitch-smith-the-peace-gardenToday is the 36th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising – 16 June 1976. That infamous point in history, when black school children demonstrated for the right to be taught in English, forms an integral part of my literary thriller The Peace Garden about a young English girl who befriends a South African political exile. If you would like a ‘novel’ take on how that day 36 years ago impacted one family for three generations, get hold of my book. If you’re still unsure, check out the reviews. It’s an e-book and only $0.99.

When Olympic dreams fail

Today is the day the Olympic Torch comes through my hometown of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Hopefully the rain will stop in time for my daughter and I to line the streets and watch the symbol of hope and unity jog past in the sweaty palm of one of the inspiring torchbearers who have been nominated for their contribution to their community. Good for them. But for me, today is a bitter sweet day.

For the last 18 months I’ve been living with the hope that my play Marathon, about the first woman Olympic marathon runner at the 1896 games, would be performed today as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The play has a wonderful producer (Pete Mortimer from Cloud Nine Productions) and a pretty decent scriptwriter (moi) and has almost been taken on by two of the region’s leading theatres. I even had an endorsement from Olympic Women, an organisation promoting greater awareness of women athletes through history. And yet, somehow, it never happened. Overfull programmes, shortage of cash, etc etc etc. Continue reading “When Olympic dreams fail”

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