Art, the sanctity of marriage and about asking Questions

Apparently: He is gay, She is straight and they married for art. And not for the first time did Stephan Green (wife beater–according to this divorced wife–and founder of ‘Christian’ Voice a UK pressure group) condemn this Art in the name of Christian values in the Daily Mail.

What he said was actually not as outrageous from a socially conservative perspective, though they rather do smell of moralising. His actions are rather more than most socially conservatives would in any way condone. Lest you have any doubt, I think he has some very sick views. Nevertheless, the way he articulated his opinion is one that many sane and friendly socially conservative Christians would agree with. Indeed many of them would articulate there criticism of what these two students did in the name of Art in the very same way. I think one can hold this position but also see some merit in this peculiar marriage if it seen as Art. It also raises some very interesting questions about our expectations of what marriage is and what it is for and what art is.

If you have not read the story its worth reading the article in their local paper over at Worcester News. There is also a video in which they are interviewed.

Perhaps I need to explain a couple of ideas for people to understand what I am trying to get at. First, I think an important aspect of art is to reflect back to us who, what and how we *are*. That is aside from the medium in which the art form is produced, shown, looked at or experienced. But at the very base level art is a deliberate act of somebody and perhaps also something that needs to be found within a relationship (the artist and her audience) though some might say it doesn’t *need* the relationship, since its enough that the artist has created for his own joy. While I would agree that in some instances this is absolutely true and good, life would be unenviable empty if artists did not share their work with an audience. But for the sake of this post let’s keep the idea that art can talk to us and ask questions of us at the forefront of our mind. Above all, we should remember that we do not need to feel threatened by questions.

Second, for the sake of clarity I think we need to talk about marriage. Social conservatives see marriage as something that a committed couple do in order to start a family. The act of marriage is a communal act, inasmuch as it happens before the community to which the couple belong, and it is an act that happens before God in which the couple make vows to each other, but also before God. Usually, love is a significant reason for marriage, and in this sense I am talking about the romantic attraction (you might not know this but there area lots of types of love). In history love has not been the only or even primary reason, and I dare say to this day, not all marriage is about romantic love. Furthermore, in the Christian tradition (in theory at least) sex happens after marriage. Moreover, it is the sexual act itself that has historically made the marriage official, though that is an anachronism that does not generally come into play for the sake of divorce.

So how do the above issues relate to what Nora and Paul did? What I am going to do now is ask a number of questions, which the couple have raised in my mind by getting married. I am not going to answer them. But raising them shows that what they did has merit (of some sort) because it challenges us to think about marriage outside of “romantic love,” a lesson very much worth learning.

What does it mean for a gay man to wed a straight woman? Isn’t that precisely what some people in the “reparative therapy” enclave believe should happen? Or put another way, isn’t it strange to critique their act, when they are following Gods “creation ordinances” despite the fact that he is gay?

Does marriage require in some way for the couple to *want* to have children? Or put another way, does our focus on building family obscure the other reasons why people get married?

At this point I think it’s interesting to mention that the couple saw their marriage as an expression of a love which was “trusting more than loving in a sexual way”.

So then. Do married couples *have* to express their love through sex?

Furthermore, the couple also said that they hope they will never get divorced. “As an Art Duo this was about making a foundation to create art” which raises another question. Leaving aside the question as to whether they should have married in the first place, what do you do with the commendable articulation that they want to stay together? What do you say to that now that they are married?

These questions are just scratching the surface only addressing the very basic questions about marriage. Just for a taster: What does the act of marrying for art mean for their relationship in terms of how they treat their bodies? Are the objects to each other? and how would that view relate to our understanding of submitting to each other through physically?

Finally, lets not forget that we do not know if either of the couples have a faith and perhaps more importantly to a moralist like Stephen Green, whether they are celibate outside of their marriage.

I think the answers to these questions can be answered in an affirming way while at the same time taking a socially conservative Christian perspective. We can learn from this artwork and affirm marriage and its important role in society against those that would like to water down its importance because of their hell bent desire for utter secularisation. Christians would do well to stop before we condemn something that in the first instance looks like an affront to our Christian heritage and values. Remember evil is parasitic to the good. Let’s look more for the good and affirm it.

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7 Responses to Art, the sanctity of marriage and about asking Questions

  1. spindlespace says:

    Really interesting post. “Let’s look more for the good and affirm it.” – absolutely.

  2. tom stanbury says:

    to make your life art is a hopelessly romantic thing to do. What about art which isn’t always the artists life? Or is my life living in streatham as a 35 year single man art? I did come across an interesting Damien Hirst quote this week. ‘I’ve doubted everyone including myself, but the only thing I’ve never doubted is art. It all boils down to the desire to live for ever. This is what art is about. If life were perfect, you wouldn’t need it.’

  3. Lauri says:

    Why is it Romantic Tom? Your life can be art. Do you want it to be? I think and important distinction to make is between the quality of art. Art in and of itself doesn’t have value and I think we use the word too often too easily to mean that something which has been created has merit. as in: “That’s Art!” Or: “Its an art form…” The reason we use the word in that way is because most art does require skill and more often than not much time learning a skill, to become an “artisan.” I value this type of art, the art which requires skill much higher than coming up with ideas to ask questions, but that does not mean that Damien Hurt’s concept art should not be dismissed as art… It might be something else than a master craftsman working on a piece of pottery, but its still art. I also think his quote is a bit of bullshit. Particularly seen from a Christian perspective, where we as humans reflect the image of God in our creative acts… (Genesis comes to mind… naming the animals). But nevertheless the quote has some merit as well. What is the nature of Damien Hurst’s doubt?

  4. Tom Stanbury says:

    I think it is romantic because I don’t think it is beneficial or useful. Why the need to make the statement? What if they just lived their lives and did go about the business of making art that interpreted the world and their view of it? Or do they not have anything to show? other than the statement ‘he’s gay, I’m not, we’re married’.
    Yes I agree with you about the ‘artisan’. The person who made the skull of diamonds for Damien Hurst had enormous, skill, patience and technique.
    I don’t know quite what Damien Hurst means I guess we’ll only find out if he says more about it.

  5. James Lee says:

    Good questions, does make you think whether it should be looked down just because it’s not motivated by sexual attraction etc, which is possibly a fairly recent development historically speaking, although I’d argue that sex is a hugely important part of marriage and should be seen as the norm – while recognising that there will be couples who are unable to do this for whatever reason.
    However, I think the quote from the girl -“It’s a really truthful marriage and we will still see other people.” part is the most telling aspect – vows stand at the very heart of marriage and they are clearly not on board with the ‘forsaking all others’ part of it (and while that phrase is specific to a culturally-located marriage service, the concept of faithfulness is crucial to any Bibical idea of marriage), which would make me wary of giving any affirmation to the project.

    • Lauri Moyle says:

      Your right to point that out. Nevertheless, the act as art can open up a different way of looking at love, which is my main point really. You will know, as do I, that we both fail in ‘foresaking all others’, so while its right to point out the problem inthat from the outset they will not be forsaking all others, the required standard I and indeed you should have of them is a lot lower and much different. As Christians we cannot presume that the high moral standards required by God could be fulfilled by those without the Holy Spirit. As I said above, we need to afirm the good, that does not mean we should accept everything about what they did, but it does mean we need to go beyond looking at only one aspect of the act and look at all aspects of the act. Green did not do that, Evangelicals rairly do that and the point of this post is about the importance of doing that. Life isnt simple.

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