I know the citizenry here like to make fun of people with pretensions about Christian culture. People who fuss a lot about aesthetics. People who think we really, really need to reach the world through ART. Not art, but ART. Because WHAT I LIKE is naturally what Jesus likes, and if I can somehow Jesus-juke my favorite musical style or TV show or indie band, then I’m culturally sophisticated and doing the REAL work of the Kingdom.
I’m with you on making fun of people like that, because they really need to be made fun of, but bear with me for a moment.
Recently, my family went to visit the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Pictures don’t impress on you how big the Ark is until you actually see it. I learned that the Ark is the largest free-standing timber structure in the world. Building it required a lot of coordination and skill. The Ark is pleasing to the eye, both inside and out, it is structurally safe and sound, and it aims to teach the world about God’s judgment of sin, the reliability of Biblical history and chronology, and most importantly – repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins in an evil day.
Skip everything I just said in the previous paragraph and what is clear is that the Ark is a cultural artifact. It is art. It is “culture”. It is also Christian. The Ark is an example, and a really potent one, of Christian culture. The largest timber structure in the world isn’t an accomplishment to sneeze at.
Why am I pointing this out? Well, the sorts of people Sanityville exists to poke fun at – Christian culture savants – tend to be dismissive of things like the Ark, right? If you asked them what evangelicals have contributed to art and architecture, would it even occur to them to include the Ark? What would they say if you said the Ark was a cultural artifact? Are they eager to take credit for it?
No, because the In-The-City-For-The-City crowd, by and large, finds Genesis 1-11 embarrassing.
But if we’re measuring cultural achievement, building the largest timber framed structure in the world based on Biblical blueprints has to trump having a nice art gallery or trying to find redemptive themes in Death Cab songs, right?
What are the odds that Brett McCracken will ever write an article about the Ark for the Gospel Coalition?
The irony amuses me. That’s why I’m sharing it.
We need to be critical thinkers when we hear rhetoric, now very commonplace, about how low church evangelical types have no appreciation for culture, and would be content to just let it all burn. All you evangelicals care about is going to heaven. Is that really true? I seem to have missed the impressive, to-scale timber-framed replica of the Ark that Tom Wright designed, supervised and built.
I’m willing to bet that the people most instrumental in getting the Ark built were not postmillennialists, not hipsters, not the sort of people we associate with sophistication in their cultural engagement.
All of that merits thought. And it merits Christian men with certain refined tastes not taking themselves too seriously.