Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the place of balaams asses (ie Christian kitsch) in theology

In relation to my previous post, Kinda commented “I recognized this immediately, as will every other 10 yr old girl in America, as Lisa Frank with a little Jesus photoshopping.”

That’s exactly why I put it up!

I’ve been reading Betty Spackman, A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch. As an artist, she set out to critique these poor relations of ecclesiastical art, only to find herself torn between being deeply moved and outraged by their sentimental appeal.

It is 440 pages, of souvenirs, fakes, crafts, tracts, relics. Her conclusion is that if God can speak through Balaam’s ass, he can “certainly communicate through even the humblest art.” Yes – even a photoshop of a child’s book.

She goes on, “which rather nullifies the arguments of taste and craftsmanship when it comes to Christian outreach. However, this doesn’t mean we should be content with making mediocre art. Also, we should always keep in mind that in truth it is people, not plastic nightclubs, Christians, not kitsch, that are called be lights to the world.” (A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch, page 21)

This has important mission implications, for these are dialogue points for conversation.

It’s why I, as a theologian, research on popular music (like U2) and TV animated cartoons (like Bro’town). Because I might just get to be challenged by Balaam’s ass and the insights via 10 year old girls.

Posted by steve at 12:03 PM


  1. Ah, my eyes are opened now! I see what you are getting at: thank you- profound insights.

    Comment by Graham — October 24, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  2. not sure if your tongue is in your cheek or not 🙂


    Comment by steve — October 24, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

  3. In the words of Martyn Joseph (who you could do with checking out or seeing) ‘irony’s drained me, I’ll now try sincere’. For once I was being unironic and this is a post I may return to (and a book to read). Of course as soon as you mentioned the holy angels (U2) I began to listen …. 🙂

    Comment by Graham — October 24, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

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