Educating my children at home is hands down the most fun I’ve had. Ever.
And it is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
But it’s mostly fun.
To that end, I’m repackaging this blog in order to expand my subject matter to include how art and its history surfaces in my daily life, and the lives of those around me. It’s in the works now, so who knows when I’ll get it squared away…but rest assured – it will still include much about art history but in a more broadened manner. More on that soon.
In the meantime, I am copying below my response to a kind editor at Baker Books who claimed to desperately want to publish my art history book but said, in short, that there’s no market for it.
After some thought, I found that I quite agreed with him. I think I clarify that realization in my response below. Of course, my long-term response is this blog, my unfinished-as yet art history book, and my desire to see more folks take a keener interest in both art and history.
I’m also posting this here because it’s too long to include in a forum thread over at Ambleside Online in which I am participating, discussing the differences and similarities between Classical / Neoclassical and Charlotte Mason models of education. But it answers, I think, a comment posted by my dear friend and phenomenal writer Silvia Cachia concerning the very critical need for a thorough understanding of historical giants.
This is from Baker Books website, from the “About Us” section:
Baker Books has a vision for building up the body of Christ through books that are relevant, intelligent, and engaging. We publish titles for lay Christians on topics such as discipleship, apologetics, spirituality, relationships, marriage, parenting, and the intersection of Christianity and culture.
My book was politely rejected by this – and many other – publishing houses because it serves “too limited [a] market”.
This is precisely the problem.
Here is a part of my response to this editor:
In the same way that millions of unsaved children of God cannot know Him unless we tell them of His glorious salvation through Jesus Christ, written perfectly and manifest in the very Word of God Himself, we cannot effectively engage the culture in which we live unless we know its history.
While many well-intentioned Christians today speak of and use film, music, video games and the Internet as ways to become relevant to the culture for the sake of the Gospel, they cannot witness beyond that very relevance because today’s secular culture vehemently rejects the past. Must we as Christians, do likewise? That would be the height of foolishness!
More than once the Bible instructs us to remember God’s provision, protection and power through the practical application of telling and re-telling those stories to our children when they ask. He even commanded Joshua to build a stone memorial (see Joshua 4) so that later generations would wonder what the stones meant. This was done so “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24) We should be looking for such memorials today so that we might tell our children the many stories of the Bible.
Art singularly serves just such a purpose.
Historically, Western art speaks of God. Christians should know this – and by and large, we do not.
We must reclaim our understanding of how culture operated in the past, at least in Western terms, if we claim that we seek to give substance, beauty, meaning, and authenticity to today’s inexcusably meager artistic offerings. As I have stated elsewhere, we stand on the shoulders of giants, not on our own intellect, innovation, creativity and –this most of all –self-defined importance. There is Christ Jesus to consider, and many artists of great skill have before now very movingly, authentically, intentionally, and mightily considered Him and His great love for us on canvas, paper, glass, mosaic, stone, marble, wood, and I daresay a great many more materials, if we care to look at them.
As for how things stand now, there is no ‘market’ for books about art because Christians aren’t interested in it. We might do well to remember that disgusting but revealing figure released earlier this year: In 2006, Americans spent $13.3 billion on pornography. Am I alone when I point out that this absurd number MUST include many of the self-reporting 80%-plus Americans who claim to believe in Almighty God? How many church-going, tax-paying, community-minded men and women could we influence to turn away from plastic, money-driven, market-centric advertisers of Hollywood’s interpretation of ‘culture’ and instead embrace the long and venerable tradition of art that repeatedly references biblical truths and historical facts in dizzying visual spectacles? Do we really value images of airbrushed but raw flesh over Rembrandt’s image of Lazarus being raised from the dead?!
Perhaps Wordsworth was a prophet: The world is too much with us, and we have indeed given our hearts away…
William Butler Yeats decries such indifference in “The Second Coming” and quite fairly assigns blame where it is due:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Make no mistake –we must reign in our emotions and our self-love if we are to be witnesses for the King. Frances Schaeffer was right on when he boldly stated that we are preoccupied with “personal peace and personal affluence.” Let us heed his warning. Let us turn aside from what the world tells us about the relevance of art for Christians. Let us look at the history of art for ourselves, and seek out the truth of How We Got Here.
If we Christians genuinely want to offer the world the true picture of God’s sovereignty over all things, we must not neglect art –particularly art that for thousands of years has honored a righteous and holy God.