• Evangelicals, culture and the arts

    Peter Webster (see profile)
    British History
    Evangelicalism--Study and teaching, Theology, Arts, Religious art, Church music, Religious literature, Culture, History
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Religious drama, History of evangelicalism, Evangelical studies, Theology and the arts, Religious music, Cultural history
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    Examines evangelical encounters with the arts as: consumer and performer in the ‘neutral’ sphere of the home; as users of the arts in public worship; as evangelists; and as moralists and reformers of the pursuits of others. It deals mainly with music, literature, the visual arts and drama, and its examples are drawn chiefly from Britain and the USA, and from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, it makes a claim to be applicable to the evangelical movement as a whole. In certain cases there were evangelical principles that went to the very basis of the art form concerned which as a result were both widespread and persistent. At the same time, there were other evangelical concerns which were not so much issues with the medium itself, but a particular social context in which it was produced. As a result such prohibitions could be, and were relaxed at other times and in other places. Evangelicals at times enthusiastically embraced certain art forms and individual works; at others they rejected them on principle; in other circumstances the story was one of resistance, adaptation, and the replacement of secular versions with safe and edifying substitutes. How far was evangelical engagement conditioned by the cultural power that they were able to exercise, and the extent to which their cultural presuppositions were shared? In the mid-nineteenth century, British evangelicals shared many of the same presumptions as their neighbours about the moral purpose of the arts, and about the conditions that should surround their production and reception. In contrast, evangelicals in the late twentieth century found themselves marooned by the processes of secularisation in societies in which any consensus about the purpose of art had fractured. In this context of perceived cultural and moral crisis, evangelicals were in confrontation with secular artistic production for its godlessness, whilst domesticating its forms for their own purposes to a greater extent than ever.
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    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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