Monday, July 25, 2005

Is Indirect Apologetics Propaganda?

I worry about misusing the indirect method of apologetics. It seems to me that there is a fine line between guiding and manipulating people to truth. Does taking great artist’s masterpieces and subjecting their art to the service of Truth cheapen the art, degrading it into propaganda? Or is the opposite true, does subjecting art to the service of Christ give the art a transcended dignity? These are very fine lines and I do not want to fall. I think the answer to the question centers on the nature of propaganda. And who else to go to for enlightenment on propaganda than Hitler himself:


All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be....

The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly. (Adolf Hitler, Hitler on Propaganda, A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust)

In many ways indirect apologetics is the mirror image of propaganda. Propaganda turned on its head. We do not seek to dumb down our message. Instead we try to demonstrate truth in an unexpected manner. We strive to make the masses think more, not less. As Christians we possess a single point of view. We focus “exclusively to emphasize the one right” because Christ is the right, he is the truth. To fail at this point is to cease to be Christian. What saves us from propaganda as Christian apologists is the awe and transcendent mystery of truth. Catholics know where Christ resides but we do not know where Christ is totally absent. Our ignorance of the transcendent Christ saves us from a deceitful propaganda.

This is why I think art in the service for Christ is not propaganda. It does not dumb down but enlighten. It draws out the truth from whoever engages the art. Not by hiding the truth but by exposing the awe of existence. If art lacks integrity or does not respect it's audience then it will not connect and will fail to communicate truth. It will cease to be art if it was ever art in the first place.

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