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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Harry Poe on the Arts as Christian Pulpit





By on February 27, 2009

(From the Making Men Moral Conference at Union University, Jackson TN, February 25-27, 2009. As reported by Owen Strachan. A friend tells me Harry Poe is the great grandson of Edgar Allen Poe. If anyone has any more bio on him, I’ll be glad to add it here. HT for the quote to Christ Datillo http://mineandthine.com)

Question: CS Lewis is essentially the evangelical saint. After his disastrous debate with Anscombe, he never again pursued a reason-based approach. He thought of Narnia as an apologetic that would slip past the cultural censor. What role do the arts, the imagination, and culture play in cultural renewal? How much should Christians focus on this manner of cultural engagement?

halpoe-1501Poe: I’m not concerned with rallying the troops, but recruiting for the movement. What is most wrong with our world cannot be solved by political means. My ultimate concerns cannot be solved with political means. One cannot win elections unless one has a majority of the vote. This is the only strategy that wins. The pulpit is where you rally the troops, but you don’t win them there. You don’t win them by attacking them, but by showing the reasonableness of your position. The arts play an important part here today. Movies don’t do well with lectures. Evangelicals haven’t figured out what to do with the arts. Mel Gibson, a Catholic, knows how to make a powerful movie. The pulpit now is the arts: literature, movies, plays. If we’re not there, we’ve retreated from the battle.

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Comments

  • Excellent. Thanks for sharing. I need to think about “not being concerned with rallying the troops, but recruiting.”

  • Well said, Mr. Poe. Though I’m not sure the question accurately reflects Lewis’ “intention” for Narnia or his vision for literature in general. I think Lewis would agree that the arts by nature speak of the human condition; they don’t need to be “used” as apologetical tools that can “slip past the cultural censor.” (I call that evangelical bait-and-switch, and it’s dishonest.) But because the arts do what they do, Christians MUST be engaged in them. For my more in-depth response, see an article I did a year or two ago: http://mindywithrow.com/?p=267.

  • Well said, Mr. Poe. Though I’m not sure the question accurately reflects Lewis’ “intention” for Narnia or his vision for literature in general. I think Lewis would agree that the arts by nature speak of the human condition; they don’t need to be “used” as apologetical tools that can “slip past the cultural censor.” (I call that evangelical bait-and-switch, and it’s dishonest.) But because the arts do what they do, Christians MUST be engaged in them. For my more in-depth response, see an article I did a year or two ago: http://mindywithrow.com/?p=267.

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