Mud Fence Ugly

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Introduction

It is commonplace for traditionalists to describe the well-balanced life as built on the foundation stones of truth, goodness, and beauty. This structural support seems intuitive to us now, or at least to some of us, but we also have to budget for the fact that we are living in a time when the culture built on these things is now coming down around our ears. Not only is the culture generally doing this, but our evangelical Christian subculture is also coming down at much the same rate.

For a time, a few decades back, it seemed that evangelicals were doing a decent job defending the idea of a fixed and objective truth—if it was true on Monday that Jesus rose from the dead, it was also true on Friday. The same thing could be said about goodness. If abortion was a wicked thing on Monday, it was also a wicked thing on Friday. The place where we struggled, however, was in the realm of aesthetics. If someone condemned your favorite band for producing as much treacle as they did, the response was frequently a relativistic “who’s to say?” response, instead of any appeal to objective aesthetic standards. That was challenge enough back in the day, but now we are all living in a morass of radical subjectivism—doctrinal, ethical, and aesthetic, all at once.

For those who still have their wits about them, this means that we are all now staring straight at the consequences of our own subjective relativism. We can see far more than the fact that it is “in error.” In addition to being erroneous, we can also see how everything has gotten kind of mud fence ugly. And most of it, I want to argue, has been on purpose.

God is altogether lovely, and He dwells in the beauty of holiness. Anything that strives to touch the ineffable reminds us of Him, and as a people, we don’t want to be reminded of Him. It makes us feel things we do not want to feel. Living in disjointed and misshapen surroundings doesn’t make us feel that way. So beauty is a reminder of the glory of God, and a people as far advanced in sin as we are want to get out our cans of spray paint, and vandalize what we can.

Stunning and Brave

The glory of the man is the woman (1 Cor. 11:7). The crown of a man is a gracious wife (Prov. 12:4). So one of the central goals of the modern feminist movement has been the ongoing uglification of women. “This is what a feminist looks like” on a t-shirt, accompanied with a snarl, or, “no, you make me a sandwich,” however witty somebody at the print shop thought it all was, are sentiments that are quite effective at making men miserable, and the women who succeeded in making them miserable, even more so.

A few weeks ago, Victoria’s Secret abandoned their foray into using plus-sized models, and determined that they were going back to the sexy ones. I tweeted at the time that things had gotten so bad that evangelicals were going to be tempted to treat this move as the harbinger of reformation and revival. I was kidding, but not entirely.

If a good-looking woman shows up without the appropriate amount of clothing, the received and approved opinion is that she is contributing to the objectification of woman, and this is greatly to be disparaged. If a body-positive model weighs in to do the same thing, with the same amount of skin exposed, she is hailed as stunning and brave. The move to celebrate and advance the uglification of women could not be more obvious. And then women who could be good-looking if they tried are allowed to be stunning and brave also, provided they augment their immodesty with chains, or dog collars, or Halloween hair. All of this is encouraged by the sexual propaganda of the regime, which uses porn stars as airbrushed exemplars, creating the delusion that if a woman is as immodest and abandoned as that, she will also be as attractive as that. Which, as it turns out, is not true.

The alternative is the biblical teaching that women ought to adorn themselves, seeking to be lovely, and to do so by means of a gentle and quiet spirit.

“For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.”

1 Peter 3:5 (KJV)

Scripture teaches us that when a woman cultivates a submissive demeanor toward her husband, this is a good thing to do. The fact that it is a good thing to do means that it is a true thing to say. So there is the truth, and there is the goodness. But Peter also says that this is a practice that makes a woman lovelier. This is how the holy women in olden times used to adorn themselves for their husbands. The lemma here is kosmeo, the same word from which we get cosmetics.

The biblical doctrine of submission is therefore a doctrine that promotes the loveliness of women. The false doctrine of feminism, a teaching that denies that there is any kind of marital hierarchy at all, is an idea that has robbed our civilization of our feminine glory. And this was kind of a disturbing feat, when you think about it. How was it possible to take something as glorious as woman and wreck it? As wonderful as woman, and turn that glorious gift into a surly, disobedient, miserable cohort, loaded up on anti-depressants? Something that beautiful transformed into something that ugly?

Art, Falsely So-Called

A number of decades ago, when I first started writing about cultural issues for our local newspaper, I quickly noticed that there were two subjects that would get the intoleristas all fired up. There are way more topics than that now—because the whole world’s a trigger now—but at the time, there were two guaranteed show-stoppers. One was homosexuality, naturally. The second was modern art, a subject that could also get the chimps jumping.

We really need to recognize that the artists were the ones who led the way, step by step, into this aesthetic madness. They took us by the hand, and instead of escorting us up to the upper mezzanine of the art museum, they took us down some rickety stairs to the basement, where there were rats, some old papers, and the sump pump, dirty rags, and a few Gertrude Stein paperbacks.

To make the decision to stop swimming upstream is, in that same moment, to make the decision to float downstream. Living things swim against the current, and dead bodies float with it. It follows from this that to abandon the artistic pursuit of the beautiful is, in principle, to float down toward the ugly. There is no neutrality anywhere, and this includes the world of the arts. If you are not trying to make it beautiful, which requires a standard of beauty from outside the world, then at some point in the near future, you are going to start trying to make it ugly.

When our artists abandoned their pursuit of the lovely, this did not usher in a period of inactivity. We still had artists, and they still produced their works of art. But it turns out that to stop pursuing the beautiful is the same thing as to start pursuing the ugly. We are pretty much there now.

If you doubt what I say, take a walk through a college campus in order to take in the various twisted metal sculptures they have on display there. Play a little game with yourself, where you try to guess how much the university paid for that thing.

Visit your local art museum. On your way out, thank the person at the front desk for having a museum there at all. You really appreciated. And yet you have noticed that most of the displays seem to have been vandalized. Can anything be done to beef up security?

Everyday Monstrosities

The disease has spread to everything, including architecture. This includes high architecture, and the architecture that shapes residential homes, and the apartment complexes that look like they were designed by chimpanzees that were high on meth.

There was a time when architects designed residential homes with the golden ratio in mind when sizing the first floor windows with the second floor windows. That ratio (1 to 1.618) is particularly pleasing to the human eye, which we know because God used it everywhere. And He appears to have used it with a considerable amount of abandon. In the old way of seeing, we placed windows that were pleasant for the neighbors to look at, because we were thinking of the neighbors first. Now the windows are scattered any old way over the side of the house, and maybe they are pleasant to look out of, but they look like they were placed by a carpenter who marked a spot when the fit took him.

We used to build fences around our back yard that had “the works” on the inside. Now we face the nice part of the fence in, treating ourselves to the good part, and saying in effect to anyone passing by on the street that we ardently wish they might go stick their head in a bucket.

There used to be front porches, where people could talk to the neighbors. Now there are a couple of misshapen lumps on the front, with automatic garage doors there, so that the motorized work-attendance pod can launch in the morning, take the pilot to some drive-through, and deposit at some place that houses lots of cubicles. The cubicles are lined with Dilbert cartoons, a sign of silent despair.

That Sartorial Schlumpy Vibe

People always dress for comfort. That is inescapable. But in Christian cultures, the emphasis is on dressing for the comfort of others. But in our day, the emphasis is on the comfort of self. Schlepping around Safeway in droopy sweats and flip flops at 7 am was certainly a lot easier than showering and stuff, but it did have the effect of putting an extra eyesore into everybody’s day.

Was that the goal, people? Making sure to become that extra eyesore?

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Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 months ago

“We really need to recognize that the artists were the ones who led the way, step by step, into this aesthetic madness. They took us by the hand, and instead of escorting us up to the upper mezzanine of the art museum, they took us down some rickety stairs to the basement, where there were rats, some old papers, and the sump pump, dirty rags, and a few Gertrude Stein paperbacks.”

Excellent visual of the art culture decadence! What we learn ..it’s Not Art for arts sake! Big mistake!

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
6 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

After reading the article, I had just finished copy/pasting this quote into a chat window with a friend, only to scroll down and see it quoted again here. It really was an effective description.

Elisabeth
Elisabeth
6 months ago
Reply to  Justin Parris

An avant garde poem:
Avant Garde went down rickety stairs
descended into madness
fluxus momentous descent of
“oh what?
rats, oil spills and paint mix ..
what for?
perverted lies
nonsense that leave you to ponder with deep thoughts of no thoughts
in a dank dark basement!

Zeph
6 months ago

Modern architecture is a bit of a mixed bag. On hand, modern buildings are more handicap accessible. Many of them are more energy efficient. They also tend to have a robotic sterility to them. Do your stuff and get out,

Elite art is what you are describing. Thomas Kincaid art is what calendars and jigsaw puzzles are made from and those pictures are nice. The average joe and jane buy Thomas Kincaid.

The highest profile common art that has tanked is comic books. The stories have been awful for a while, now the art has followed.

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
6 months ago
Reply to  Zeph

If you’re talking about this, you already know, but likely many on the blog don’t. The comic companies over time began hiring inside a cultural bubble. In this cultural bubble what matters is not talent or ability, but how well you get along with the other people in the cultural bubble. Go to comic con with and be friends with people in the bubble? Well here’s an assistant editor’s job on an X-Men book, you can work your way up. Naturally over time this is cancer for any business. It not only tanks the quality of the work to the… Read more »

TedR
TedR
6 months ago

I once was at an event that took place in the home of a very wealthy family. I was standing next to a painting that was hung on the wall. I apparently was standing too close as the person I was talking to warned me about a potential for my elbow contacting the painting (which by my view, would have improved it). I looked at the painting and back at the fellow who warned me with what must have been a look of astonishment that he was worried about the painting and not my elbow. He recognized my disapproval of… Read more »

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 months ago

The artists are not without fault, I’ll post some links to Miles William Mathis if I can find the time. He’s great on aesthetics and art.
But if you read Who Paid The Piper you will be amazed how much the art scene of the second half of the 20th century was influenced and funded by intelligence services. You keep saying politics is downstream from culture but not necessarily.

Kristina
Kristina
6 months ago

Modern art can be beautiful. Take Santiago Calatrava’s brise soleil on (not in) my hometown’s art museum, or Dale Chihuly’s towering glass sculpture that used to stand just inside the door of that museum.

TedR
TedR
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina

I don’t think the argument is that *some* modern art cannot be beautiful.

Kristina
Kristina
6 months ago
Reply to  TedR

If the artist knows what he’s doing with color, light, and space, it will be beautiful. If he doesn’t… well, you’ve seen it!

Ariel Warren
Ariel Warren
6 months ago

So glad you mentioned the golden ratio! The ancient Greeks and a lot of Renaissance painters went great lengths to make sure this ratio was presented in their works.
A cool fact about the ratio: If you cut a square from a golden rectangle, the leftover rectangle will still be 1:1.618.

Doug's Incoherent Philosemitism
Doug's Incoherent Philosemitism
6 months ago

Dave Smith (Jewish) and Tucker Carlson discussing this in the early part of this video. Worth a watch.

https://youtu.be/8RWqKa91pxs

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 months ago

And why shouldn’t Kevin Deyoung take a position closer the cultural zeitgeist than you, attack you to gain some clout, and dismiss you as a nut and a loser?

J.F. Martin
J.F. Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Barnabas

I only read the article once Barnabas; I don’t think DeYoung was dismissive, but actually providing feedback about not focusing on sarcasm. Your personal assessment of Pastor Wilson, however, is pretty clear.

And if the ERLC and the SBC hasn’t been the biggest target on the National Alliance for Christians Sabotaging their own Denomination board, I don’t know what has. Maybe Christianity Today should be in charge of their fundraising.

Thanks for drawing attention to the article. Be Blessed.

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 months ago
Reply to  J.F. Martin

Well yes. In response to Wilson’s defensiveness I’ve said what if Deyoung gave Wilson a taste of his own medicine. Be doesn’t. Whether or not you agree with him, reading Deyoung after reading Wilson is a quite refreshing…meaning what he says and saying what he means. Wilson is a bad writer not because he’s unkind but because he’s muddled. I don’t care that Wilson is controversial though controversy in itself isn’t of much value and can be a waste of gravitas (Wilson could never be an RC Sproul). A dedicated commitment to truth should generate more than enough controversy for… Read more »

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
6 months ago
Reply to  Barnabas

Takes all sorts of people to make a world, Barnabas.

Since there’s no question you’re an Expert on what makes good writing, then why don’t you go ahead and start your own blog or write your own book, then report back within, say, a year’s time the massive readership you’ve accumulated?

Should be easy.

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 months ago

Deal.
I’m going to start with a short story where PG Wodehouse and Oswald Mosley take a walk through 2023 London.

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
6 months ago
Reply to  Barnabas

If you think that will amass the readership necessary to hold up your end of the bargain, then knock yourself out.

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
6 months ago
Reply to  Barnabas

“Wilson is a bad writer not because he’s unkind but because he’s muddled.” It would seem that some others don’t have so much trouble following. “Wilson makes a big show of attacking certain falsehoods, violating certain modern cultural taboos only to double down on others.” Which doesn’t say much other than that you don’t agree with him on everything, something that’s generally true of everyone. “DeYoung is correct about the motte and bailey dance as well.” A claim that would have been much more effective with some examples. In my experience when Wilson doesn’t want to defend a claim, he… Read more »

Cherrera
Cherrera
6 months ago
Reply to  J.F. Martin

DeYoung said ERLC is a conservative group and “on the same side as Wilson in almost every important cultural battle.” Amazing. Russell Moore spent 4 years crying and whining about Trump, punching to his right and coddling left at every turn. He didn’t even mention Roe v. Wade being overturned (this was after he left ERLC but still…his ghost haunts the place).

I’m surprised anyone here is taking DeYoung’s side…especially those who consider themselves to the right of DW.

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
6 months ago
Reply to  Cherrera

DeYoung’s article had little to no substance, and so approval of it is not substance based. He demanded DW do a bunch of things he already does, and demanded he stop doing a bunch of things that aren’t sins. The only sin based issue was the language issue, which has already been defended, and DeYoung made no attempt whatever to rebut the defense. I’m not even necessarily saying DeYoung’s wrong on the language. I assuredly use worse langauge than DW. I’m in no position to judge. But DeYoung’s argument fails by default by virtue of not interacting with the already… Read more »

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 months ago
Reply to  Cherrera

Doug Wilson has no friends to the right.

MC
MC
6 months ago

“If a body-positive model weighs in…” – Certified Chesterton approved. What perfect wordplay!

Jimmy Hinkson
Jimmy Hinkson
6 months ago

Doug is right. everything is crumbling around us; every dimension of life is being uglified. Over here in the UK, nothing seems to work; even more depressing is that no-one seems to want to do anything about it. Our government is proving to be more and more incompetent, mendacious, or probably both. Those who occupy high office found to be guilty of wrongdoing are never brought to account, with things carrying on as it nothing ever happened. London is now the city of protests, with demonstrations every weekend.