Christianity's Neglected Cultural Weapons - Signs and Symbols

I recently interviewed the accomplished artist and teacher of icon carving, Jonathan Pageau. He is also one of the co-founders of the excellent Orthodox Arts Journal. Some will be aware that he has been gaining an increasingly high profile in social media - it doesn't do any harm when Jordan Peterson regular retweets you! He has been posting movie reviews and talks on his YouTube channel and they are gaining interest from a wide and increasing audience that includes many non-Christians and even atheists.

I wanted to know why.

What he is doing, he told me, is to analyze the culture, and especially movies in terms of the symbols of the Christian faith. As an iconographer, he is conversant in traditional symbolism, a field that is called 'iconology' (as distinct from the creation of the images, which is iconography). He explains in the interview that his analyses are based upon the premise that traditional Christian symbolism is not arbitrary, but appeals to something that is part of our nature, and which is placed there by God so that we might have faith and see Him in all that is beautiful and good around us, especially in creation. The interconnectedness of all things form a network of relationships in the cosmos which allows us then to make the leap in our minds to grasp the truth that all that is created relates to something greater and uncreated, but invisible, who is, of course, God.

Christian symbolism stimulates this facility in us powerfully precisely because it participates in the natural symbolism in creation, perceived at the very least as its beauty.

Many successful filmmakers use it, very often unknowingly and instinctively to make a connection with their audiences. If he is right (and I think he is) then what he is explaining is something that could not only be used consciously and if done well, even more successfully both to increase viewing figures for films and to evangelize the culture. While it might be possible to use this cynically, the more that it is distorted or used for wrong purposes, the more its power is undermined. It is like a charism, as soon as we try to misuse it, it disappears. The reason that this message of Jonathan's resonates with atheist and believer alike is that they recognize the pattern of interconnectivity as something that reflects an underlying truth. Jonathan's YouTube channel is here. It is called, The Symbolic World. I encourage you to investigate.

The interview is on my podcast page, or you can access it on YouTube, here: