Recently I wrote an article on reclaiming beauty. There may be some foundational ideas there that you would need to understand before you read this article.
Most of us know what cubism is but are unaware of the term that is connected to it. Before we define our terms, I want to take you to my senior year of high school. Our church, and my good friend Matt Wolfe, who was the youth pastor at our church at the time, put together a missions trip.
We went to a church camp in Canada, Word of Life Quebec. It was a very memorable trip. We did several jobs around the camp to help spruce the place up. We got to enjoy spending time with teenagers who only spoke French, and being from Wayne County, PA, we barely spoke English. Although there was a language barrier, we were able to connect in several ways. We tried new foods such as Poutine, which is french fries with gravy and cheese curds over it. Much to our surprise, this was served as a meal not a side.
One day we got to visit the city of Quebec. This was the highlight of the tourism part of our trip. I remember thinking that this was not like anything I had ever seen before (at least in person). Many of the streets were brick, a lot of buildings had copper roofs, there were flowers everywhere, as well as many street performers.
Then at the top of the city set the oldest church north of the Spanish colonies in Florida and New Mexico in North America called the Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame of Quebec which is still standing today. Built in 1647, this building, with its artwork and architecture captivated me, even as a teenage boy not particularly interested in either of those things at the time.
I would love to get my family back to Quebec one day. While the United States has pockets of state or government buildings, and churches which such architecture, from what I remember as a teenager Quebec was a whole city full of beautiful artwork.
In fact the city of Quebec itself was art. The city sits on top of a cliff, next to the Saint Lawrence River. They have a beautiful skyline, highlighted by the Château Frontenac, jetting up above the skyline as if it’s own city on top of the city. The entire place is something to behold.
I’ve never been to Europe, although I would love to get there one day, but in my mind Quebec is the poor man’s Europe. While now you need a passport or passcard, at least if you live anywhere in Northeastern part of the country, you could get there in one day of driving. A visit to the city to observe the beauty would not be wasted.
Let’s come back to the states. Most of the buildings we have today are a form of cubism. Cubism is a form of art, or better yet a lack of art. The idea of cubism is, at least from my perspective, buildings are built for function and not beauty.
If we look around at most buildings now, whether restaurants, big box stores, malls, and even churches, we will see cubism. Cubism is the art or architecture of simply building something as a cube or a box. What we do, to avoid this perception, is build a cube, then we put some catchy signs or lights out front in order to cover up the fact that the place we are about to enter is just a box.
Why do we build like this as a culture? Because we know that we can’t advertise with that simple box and drab sign. Why do we build in cubes? Simply, I think it’s just because it’s cheaper to do so. It is cheaper to build a cube in the area of both design and construction. It takes a lot less to draw a box than it would some architectural feat.
Why else would we build in cubes? I believe the idea is very secular in and of itself. No, I didn’t say sinful, I said secular. It has the idea of secular material atomism, which I discussed in the article on dehumanization . That if we are just machines, and we build more machines to take care of the machines that are our bodies, and logically function means more than beauty to us.
How then does cubism kill God? It is probably an overstatement since God is in control and nothing can kill Him. But anytime we choose to negate beauty, which reflect His nature and character, we reflect less on the image He created through us.
So next time you are out and about look at buildings that are being built or have recently been put up and wonder if this is beautiful architecture on display or is this cubism with some lipstick on the pig? For a fun mental exercise, consider how you would have made that building differently if you were the architect.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.