On Facebook yesterday someone posted, “I don’t see why musicians have to make social statements at awards ceremonies.” I looked at that statement for a while, tempted to respond, then for some reason I decided not to. I think it was because I had no idea who the artist was or what he/she had to say. Regardless, the point I would have made is that all art, in some way, is social commentary.
Many of the religious paintings that we admire were painted in Medieval and Renaissance times. They are beautiful depictions of biblical stories at a time when the church was in charge of just about everything (social, political, etc.). Religious characters were painted in the garb of the day. Villages, as well, that were supposed to be of Biblical times, were really depictions of a more modern time. It brought the stories into their world; commenting on their times. It truly gave the stories a “here and now” feel, which is social commentary.
Leonard Bernstein, who was born August 25, 1918, was blatant in his personal and artistic conviction that art and artists were social commentators. West Side Story, if some of you remember, was extremely controversial in its time. Many Americans were very concerned that it was the musical Nikita Khrushchev was taken to see when he visited New York City. The last orchestra Bernstein where he was principle conductor was the Vienna Philharmonic. Back then, he could have had any orchestra he wanted, but he chose Vienna. Imagine, a gay Jewish boy from Lawrence, MA playing in of all places, Vienna. What a statement!
I think, really, whether we consider ourselves artists or not, we all make social commentary by what we do and say. I feel, in some way, we become what we believe. So the challenge for us at Island United, as we seek to look outward in our ministry, is to be what we believe: to bring the teachings of Jesus to our community, to be personal advocates for justice and peace. Painting a picture, doing a dance, or singing a song becomes expressions of who we are along the way.
Think about it,