“Beauty Will Save the World”

I have been reading a lot of the Christian reactions that have appeared on the internet since the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage last Friday. No one is surprised by the outcome, most are very upset, and all agree that something momentous has just taken place. Decades-worth of built-up decadence has finally burst the dam, and all doubts that America has drifted from its Christian roots have been entirely dispelled. We live in a nation that so idolizes freedom that it sanctions unnatural and gravely immoral actions in the name of personal liberty.

One commentator said that America is now in a “Cold Civil War”, and I entirely agree with this statement. As our nation was once polarized by slavery, we are now polarized by gay marriage and related issues. Families are divided and friends are at odds because of mutually incompatible viewpoints. Although it has not escalated to widespread violence, as it did in the first Civil War, we are engaged in an intense verbal conflict. Whoever shouts the loudest wins, and, based on the Obergefell decision, it is not hard to see which side is shouting louder.

It is becoming more and more evident that of politics will not save our country, so I believe that we Christians need to invest our energy in other approaches. The head-on approach is often counter-productive because many people are no longer capable of rational and sincere discussion. Since we lack common principles upon which we can agree, it is next to impossible to engage in discussion in which we reason together to a consensus. Conversations on gay marriage and related moral issues quickly devolve into verbal boxing matches.

This is not to say that we should not stand up and speak the truth, nor that we should give up the political battles altogether, but rather that we should increase our efforts to evangelize through other modes of persuasion. Since rational persuasion is not working, we must turn to emotional persuasion which can be achieved through Christian beauty.

I lived in Rome for four years and fell in love with the Baroque art with which the city abounds. The Baroque style developed in large part because of the 17th-century mode of evangelization which placed its emphasis on emotional persuasion rather than on rational argumentation, employing the visual arts to communicate truth with great theatricality and dynamism. Carracci, Bernini, Borromini, and others strove to recover the sense of transcendent truth with the marvelous sublimity, soaring verticality, and explosive three-dimensionality of their art: they sought to emotionally overwhelm the viewer and thus persuade him to acknowledge a reality that surpassed his own ability to fully understand.

I strongly believe that the conversion of our nation will depend on a similar method. People can close their minds to the truth, but it is much harder to close one’s heart to beauty.

We Christians need to dig deep into our rich artistic heritage and revive it in culturally relevant ways. We need to foster a new flourishing of beautiful art in order to overwhelm the hearts, and eventually the minds, of our secular contemporaries.

Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote that beauty will save the world. I firmly believe this, and I would like to suggest that we channel our energy towards the communication of Christian beauty. Whether we are artists or not, we can manifest the beauty of our faith by living it to the full, and by striving to make our own lives as beautiful as possible.

The Obergefell decision may be a defeat, but only in a little skirmish. Christ told us that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against us, so we know that we will win the final battle. Although our world is becoming more and more rife with the ugliness of immorality, it’s nothing more than one of the Satan’s final bursts of energy as he desperately fights to thwart the Christian revolution that began with an empty tomb 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. He knows that his time is limited. In the end, the beauty of Christian love will triumph.

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