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The Road Goes On

Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 10:24 PM

Perfect Clumsiness

That's the title of this amazing interview with Romanian playwright Andras Visky in the most recent issue of The New Pantagruel.

I really appreciated this section. I'm quoting at length so his statements have a bit more context:

ANDRÁS VISKY:

In the theatre, or more generally speaking, in our encounter with art – or let’s take my earlier example: during the sermon that happens to us – we have the possibility of sharing in the gift of the present time. We become contemporaries of God and of Creation. That is to say, we suddenly feel our everyday life, which is so fragmentary and fragile and exposed to suffering and death, to be eternal. For me, the “Christ-event” is also a kind of experiment by God to make His people and of course, the whole creation, His contemporaries. The Hungarian word “contemporary” is a compound word in which time and fellowship are joined together. The gift of the present. If we are brave enough and afraid in the proper way, we can see that His grace means that we become fellows of God in Christ who showed us His humanity in His suffering and weakness.

The New Pantagruel:

How does this inform our interaction with the secular world?

ANDRÁS VISKY:

Well, the repeated appeal of Christian theology and mission is that we should exercise an influence on non-Christian and secularized culture and art. Some of my English speaking friends are using a very strong word for this: we are supposed to impact the culture. But if we take a work of art for what it is, that is, simply a work of art and not for, let’s say, a kind of tactical weapon, like a Trojan horse, then we must admit that we as Christian people have rejected the aesthetic understanding of the world. Or we might say that we have become rather abstinent, aesthetically, for the sake of our false comfort.

My experience is that if theological and aesthetical ways of speaking come into conflict with each other, nothing good results. They become enemies and, what’s more, they censor each other. I am convinced that Christianity or Christian faith should expose itself to be impacted by the surrounding world and culture. If God is almighty, we don’t experience this the most in the church, but in such places where there is no room for Him. Where His almightiness shines through the events like a flash of lightning. You know, the church is not God’s censor, but it seems to me that nowadays, this is how it acts. It behaves as if it is God’s censor. So we say that art outside of the church is not art for a Christian. But inside the church you cannot find art. You cannot, for the most part, find art. Christian culture is simply not present in the contemporary artistic or literary scene so one cannot expect to exercise an influence on it like, let’s say, with a bomb. According to the English-Hungarian dictionary, to impact means to hit, like with a bomb, for example. To hit with a bomb! (laughs)

The New Pantagruel:

So you think this idea of impacting the culture doesn’t work?

ANDRÁS VISKY:

You know, I believe that when Jesus is present, the world is not divided in two, we here, together with Jesus, and those people over there who don’t believe in Him. It’s divided in two in a different way. Jesus is here and all of us we are on the other side and it’s His grace to invite us to be with Him. This is the Gospel. The Gospel speaks about this. It’s not my idea. If you are invited by Him, by Jesus, I am sure that you would not be prepared and you would not believe that He invited you. “Me? I visited You as a prisoner? I don’t remember this.” In other words, the church life has to speak about this, that I don’t believe that I believe. And to “impact the culture” – this is not a real issue now for Christianity. My message to Christianity now is not to impact the culture. My message to Christianity is to be impacted by the culture, to offer itself a little bit to be impacted. How can we impact the culture without ourselves creating a valuable culture, without having valuable artists? How can we impact the culture by just reacting to Derrida and Levinas? First of all, we need to read them and understand them in a deep way, to put them in the tradition of their narrative and try to understand them. It’s not the time to impact the culture. We would impact the culture only if we would accept to be impacted by the culture. And in being open to being impacted by the non-Christian culture, there is a possibility that we can meet the almighty God. You know, I am sure that if Mozart was our contemporary we would keep his music out of the reach of our children, we would surely not play his songs in our churches. Are we ready to receive from a modern day Mozart?

The New Pantagruel:

To receive what?

ANDRÁS VISKY:

The sovereignty of God. God gives talent where He wills. Do we have a sovereign God? If we do have a sovereign God, we can see very well that this sovereign God creates amazing works of art through uncommitted Christians or through those who are not members of my church. And? And I can’t be the censor of God. The whole church was a censorship of Jesus. All the people around Jesus were His censors, except those who were blind, who were lepers. Who are those who don’t censor Jesus? Only the blind, the lepers, the mute, the prostitutes, because they have no reason to do so. But we do.

The New Pantagruel:

They have no reasons?

ANDRÁS VISKY:

They have no reasons because they are at the edge of their lives, the edge of their existence. Help my unbelief. I believe, but help my unbelief. Do we believe? Help my unbelief.

We shouldn’t think for a moment that if Christ was our contemporary we wouldn’t censor Him or we wouldn’t kill Him. Especially since we know that we did kill Him, and not only on the cross, but in Auschwitz, in the death camps that are patented as products of the industrial development, of the modern, civilized society. I will not talk about the Romanian gulag because that was an atheist experiment. But Auschwitz was a Christian “experiment” and more than that, as the archives show, it was an ecumenical one. To kill the chosen people is a clear sign that we would kill Jesus. The church is not the club of those who would not kill Jesus. Our instinctive identification, as Christians, is always with the disciples and not with the betrayer. But no one betrays Jesus but the church. A non-Christian doesn’t betray Jesus. A non-believer doesn’t. It’s not possible. Logically, it’s not possible. Who betrays Jesus? The church betrays Him. The church is Judas.



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