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21: What good is beauty in an ugly world?

EPISODE: 21

What good is beauty in an ugly world?

with Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit

We’re talking beauty, joy and music that speaks to our souls.

For arguments sake: where we take a debate, cut out the party politics and try to talk it out

While beauty can be an abstract subject, it’s also something that cuts into our everyday lives. Megan and Michael wanted to talk about this subject because they both feel the evangelical world can feel a bit confining when talking about beauty. Megan says her experience of baptists in particular is that they have a strained relationship with beauty.

“There’s a suspicion of the beautiful, which goes back to the church fathers,” says Michael. Something also happens during the Reformation, when Protestants want to get away from the visual, smash the statues and go back to the verbal. Luther even said that the ears are the organ of the Christian, not the eyes.

Evangelicalism is quite a pragmatic faith. “We’re not cathedral builders,” says Michael. “We want to things to make a difference,” says Megan, so the feeling is that there’s no time for “frippery”.

Michael and Megan explore what beauty is – is it just ‘high art’ or is it broader than that? What can nature teach us about beauty? And is there a commonality of the experience of beauty that might be objective truth?

Megan has been reading Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura – an artist, academic and Christian -which issues a call to feed our culture’s soul with beauty, creativity and generosity. As many Christians become more embattled in culture wars, Fujimura is asking how Christians can be people who draw others into beauty.

Also mentioned in this segment:

Where credit’s due: the influences that form and move us

It’s Megan’s turn to pick a book that was meaningful to her: Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis – the story of Lewis being converted to belief in God and then eventually to belief in Christianity.

Lewis’ experience of beauty – which he calls experiences of joy – resonated with Megan, particularly when Lewis talks of creating imaginative worlds with his brothers as a child.

Michael says he picked up on the sense of longing through Lewis’ work –  deep in the heart of humans there is something that longs for the eternal.

Beauty, says Megan, shows us that things are significant, special. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Further reading:

Marg and Dave: reviews from two people obsessed by stories, but not always the same ones.

We’re talking transcendent music and faith. And Michael wants to talk about Bach: “The Christian who has done more to advance the cause of beauty than anyone is Johann Sebastian Bach,” he says.

Megan, on the other hand, says the music that makes her think of beauty is African American spirituals: “there’s a beauty in the sadness, but yet the hope … there’s a beauty that comes out of a the experience of humanity.” One song in particular featured in season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale during a scene of infant baptism, ‘Down to the river to pray’.

Also mentioned in this segment:

WHAT IS WITH ALL DUE RESPECT?

Less aggro, more conversation.

Is it even possible to have a deep discussion without it descending into chaos? Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit think yes, and want to show the rest of us how to do it.

There’s plenty of things they disagree on: free will, feminism, where you should send your kids to school and what type of church you should go to. But there are also plenty of other things that they have in common. They want to talk about all these things with conviction. But they also want the conversation to be constructive. Tune in to find out if that’s possible.

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