Gregory Wolfe: Art in a Fallen World <---Link to the WSJ article)
This is an article in the Wall Street Journal® about the art of the late Thomas Kincaid. There is a Kincaid painting with the article. The article promotes the idea that there can be no pleasure without pain, no joy without sorrow, no celebration without tragedy. There is a Kincaid painting with the article that is not reproduced here. It is worth looking at to set the context of the opinion below.
I am profoundly opposed to Wolfe's view. If you are opposed to my opposition, I advise you to stop reading now, because you are only going to get upset. Don't say I didn't warn you!
It is easy to be enmeshed in the idea that pain is required to appreciate pleasure in our “relativistic” world. Looking at Kincaid’s painting “The Cross,” we should steel ourselves to remember that the vision is just after the most celebrated death by torture in history. Look at the lush sky the beautiful blue-green hills, the promise of day. Most Christians can really respond to it, then he’s got them – they’ve forgotten that their Savior died over night on that very cross. The painting is well-designed for guilt. Christians respond to it and then they are supposed to feel guilty for taking pleasure in the beauty of the world after the Savior’s death.
There is only the world, reality and our own lives. This article and sentiment is a search for redemption by those who feel deeply that they have gone wrong somewhere, but they have hope to find redemption and forgiveness.
Where they have gone wrong is in denying the law of non-contradiction. They want life and they want everlasting life (a contradiction), they want love (a choosing) and universal love (a contradiction). They want happiness without work (a contradiction unless you can get victims to sacrifice for your happiness). And they want forgiveness without changing their ways.
The appeal of the Passion is that it tells people that they, in their denial of the law of non-contradiction, are not alone, and should therefore feel the comfort of community. Everyone is in the same boat it tells them, so just stop whining and learn to enjoy your misery. Didn’t Ellsworth Toohey tell Catherine Halsey much the same thing?1
Instead of teaching them where they have gone wrong, that the universe is non-contradictory, that A is A, Christianity perpetuates the myth of mysticism and the consequence of mysticism, self-doubt. Once a person doubts their ability to deal with reality because they believe that things can be and not be in the same respect at the same time, then they are ripe for any type of altruistic ideology, be it religious or secular.
The moral crises the world faces is framed in terms of altruism vs Objectivism, but the support of the morality of altruism comes from metaphysics, and the mistaken belief that Aristotle’s Law of Non-Contradiction “doesn’t have to be true (at least not in all cases).”
The one thing that is not allowed by altruism is a totally consistent universe, and its proper result, the guiltless man – John Galt2. He is Ayn Rand’s shining example of throwing out the fake alternative between a betrayed self as a victim and an evil doer. This is what we must remember and follow.
Note the last paragraph of the article:
“But if faith teaches us anything, it should be that our nostalgia is for an ideal we can only find after accepting, and passing through the brokenness of a fallen world. Any other approach, in art or life, is a form of denial. [Emphasis added].The Passion is the proper display of their formless, nameless, malevolent guilt. It matches their universe. While we can appreciate the technical skill, I believe that this Christian idea and all of its artistic manifestations are depraved and should be condemned without exception.
1. Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead
2. Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged