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Book on Art Underrated by Reviewer

A Profound Weakness: Christians and Kitsch, is an important work and deserves more than it received in a recent review by Faith Today magazine.

It was encouraging to see a review of a book on the arts by a Christian author. It is a good sign that many such works are becoming available. Betty Spackman's book A Profound Weakness: Christians and Kitsch, is an important work and deserves more than it received in a recent review in Faith Today magazine. If, as suggested, the book will be "picked up mainly by scholars and artists," then it may tell us more about readership than about the book. This work is accessible to the lay reader and issues a call to a more thoughtful consideration on the subject of spirituality and image.

A Profound Weakness: Christians and Kitsch

The book is not prescriptive, telling us what we should think, but rather exploratory and evocative giving us word and image to move us to consider how we are influenced by visual culture. The text is not short on opinion but it is characterized by a forthrightness that is coupled with a gentle and caring spirit. It is precisely the ability of the author to bring together a blunt critique with a genuine respect that makes this work exceptional. The style and I daresay the purpose of this book is redemptive.

It was surprising to read the reviewer's comment about "ungrounded assumptions" which she found "most troubling." As an example we are given a quote from page nine in the book: "Christians do not have a monopoly on God." Spackman goes on to point to God's work in the world among non-Christians. I assume the grounding for this claim is the well known Reformed belief in "common grace." Spackman is more careful, thoughtful and well informed theologically than the review suggests.

This insightful book will give the reader glimpses into Christian spirituality found in diverse cultural contexts. It can serve to provoke our thinking about our relationship to images and alert us to the power of visual culture. Perhaps most importantly it can help the reader to see some of the pitfalls present in a spirituality rooted in a superficial sentimentality and nudge us toward a more robust spirituality and thoughtful consideration of the images we adopt.

John Franklin is the executive director of Imago.

Originally published in Faith Today, July/August, 2006.




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