The world lost one of its greatest champions of the beautiful this week.
The philosopher Roger Scruton worked to restore a sense of beauty that was lost in the 20th century’s love of the brutal and the shocking, the flat and the banal.
The real-world results of abandoning beauty are utterly dehumanizing. In his classic BBC documentary “Why Beauty Matters,” Scruton spoke about architecture’s responsibility for urban decay: “This building is boarded up because no one has a use for it. Nobody has a use for it because nobody wants to be in it. Nobody wants to be in it because the thing is so…ugly.” Ironically, the result of a utilitarian ideal in architecture is block after block of abandoned buildings.
Church art must take heed to this prophetic call for a restoration of the sense of the beautiful. We live in a time when 1 out of 6 young converts to Christianity come to believe in a visit to a church. We can’t afford to “update” our sanctuaries with eurotrash posters and ill-suited furnishings, with exposed sound equipment and felt banners.
Beauty is not naive. Devotion is not childish. Idealism is not an abandonment of the real. We are spiritual, and renewed, creatures of Beauty Himself, and our churches and the worship they are built for must foster a sense of hope in Him.