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Hello and welcome to the interview dialogues of The Trumpet of Truth.
I'm your host Li Cheng.
And today, we're talking about the visual artworks
produced by The Church of Almighty God
with Professor Massimo Introvigne, Italian scholar of new religious movements,
founder and managing director of Center for Studies on New Religions.
Good afternoon, Professor Introvigne.
Thank you for being here.
Good afternoon!
You're an expert in the study of new religions,
and religious visual art is one of your fields of study.
I've heard that you are interested in The Church of Almighty God's artworks.
Last December,
you published an article on WRSP online encyclopedia about these artworks.
I'd like to find out a bit more about why this is;
what do you find so fascinating out of these works?
I believe there is a prehistory in it
that in 1970s, very few historians of art started noticing
that a very significant art was produced by the new religions.
Actually, in a disproportionate amount,
meaning new religions are minority religions,
but they contribute to the arts in proportion
in a much bigger way than the old religions,
that was even a discovery which was resisted by art critics,
because there was the general idea that the modern artist is very often an atheist.
It came out that this is not true if we have a look at history of art,
but even of modern art we see that the real atheists are very few.
It is true that many art complexes, artworks
are no longer perhaps produced in the traditional churches and religions,
but the new religions started in the 20th century or the 19th century
and really contributed very significantly to the world of art with their productions.
So what happened to The Church of Almighty God?
Because this model will predict that,
being such a large fast-growing church,
The Church of Almighty God will produce its own art,
but that didn't happen for many years,
for a very simple reason, because of the persecution.
Because of the persecution in China,
you cannot have buildings and you had other things to do,
trying to survive the cruel persecution of the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party),
and didn't leave much time and leisure to produce art.
As soon as you started having significant communities abroad in certain countries,
where you may have had some problems as refugees, but you were not persecuted,
the model worked in the sense
that being a growing and large new religion,
The Church of Almighty God started producing works of art.
That perhaps is an unintended consequence of
the persecution of the CCP that generates a diaspora abroad,
and in the diaspora abroad the art started flourishing.
Of course, a second unintended consequence had nothing to do with art,
and was that non-Chinese started returning to Almighty God as well,
that's also because of this significant presence of diaspora communities.
I will say that your artistic production really started in 2013 or 2014.
In few years, there is an astonishing growth of this production
in terms of number of movies and in terms of number of paintings.
I know that paintings are mostly used for the movies,
some of them decorate your churches and offices,
but nonetheless we are speaking of thousands of paintings,
many of them are of very good art quality.
So, I will say that a distinctive body of art is being created very rapidly,
and has also been acknowledged
in the sense that some of your movies won awards in Christian film festivals,
which is very significant
because they recognized the good quality of your movies and gave these awards.
Normally,
it is an important step in the maturity and globalization
and mainstreaming of many religions
when they start having their own distinctive body works of art.
Yes, just like you said,
the visual arts of The Church of Almighty God progress rapidly.
New artworks keep being produced.
But I have to say,
without the blessing of God, without the work of the Holy Spirit,
no one could have done this.
So let's first talk about the paintings of the Church.
I'm sure if you would exhibit them
or create websites mostly devoted to your paintings
that many people would admire the quality of these paintings.
As I say,
there are two main bodies perhaps three of paintings I've been exposed to,
some are landscape paintings with a traditional-modern quality,
and you use in a significant way computer-assisted drawing.
That reminds me of an important exhibition of David Hockney, the British artist, in New York.
I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art
and he is now old
but he's using a lot the iPad for creating works of art.
You really see that there is a tendency in Modern Art
in the use of computer-assisted technology.
Particularly for producing landscapes, it's quite significant
and I'm not suggesting that
your artists are inspired by any particular Western artist,
but it's something which is in the air
to take advantage of the computer-assisted technology
to produce landscape or scenarios with very bright warm colors.
So in a way your artists are part of this trend.
Then second, there is the biblical scenery,
and here your images are much more traditional.
Particularly, if you want to use this expression
"Christ Knocking at the Door,"
which is very much reminiscent of
British pre-Raphaelite productions of the late 19th century,
William Holman Hunt, etc.
In this painting,
it's really a new take at an old iconographic tradition.
In some other paintings,
of course we see the distinctive theology of The Church of Almighty God,
and we see very clearly a distinct relationship
between the creation of the artist and the word of Almighty God.
One painting, for instance, shows Adam and Eve clothed.
They discover they are naked and they receive clothes.
The clothes are made by God's own hands.
This, particular in the theology of The Church of Almighty God,
is very important,
because it shows that God takes care of human beings,
even if God can chastise human beings in some occasions,
but He takes care of human beings
and even God's care of humans is so delicate
that He makes the clothing with His own hands.
Another similar image is "Noah's Ark After the Flood."
And here I believe for interpreting the paintings,
some knowledge of the theology of The Church Almighty God is needed.
Because the real center of the painting is not Noah,
it's not the animals as colorful as they may be,
but what is in the center of the painting is the rainbow.
Many art critics studied Christian paintings in general,
and I am reminded of the Christian art critic from Austria, Hans Sedlmayr,
he said in the Christian paintings, there is always a center.
Sometime in the modern art there is no center,
but in the Christian paintings, look for the center.
In this painting of Noah after the flood, the center is the rainbow.
The rainbow was sent by God to announce that the world will not be destroyed,
which is an important part of the theology of The Church of Almighty God,
and it's different from what other churches believe.
The Church of Almighty God doesn't believe that this world (will) be destroyed.
Yes, there would be catastrophes,
but this world would be transformed and not be destroyed.
So, the rainbow in a way is a symbol, which is still true today.
So, an understanding of the theology of The Church of Almighty God
will really help us to understand the painting
and to understand where the center is in the painting of Noah after the flood.
Because as I say
art historians have really characterized that the Christian art has a center.
Sometimes the modern art refused to have a center, which is also a choice.
They try to produce something completely different.
But in Christian art,
normally paintings call your attention to a center,
which may not be the physical center, may be a theological center.
In this painting of Noah, the center is really the rainbow,
like in the painting of Adam and Eve the clothing is the important part,
because it's true that
with the clothing God manifests His delicate love for humanity.
Yes, indeed.
The majority of the paintings are produced
based on the Bible and Almighty God's words.
Just like the image "The Rainbow Covenant."
It reminds me of God's words
"In this covenant we see God's heart—
we see that God's heart was in pain when He destroyed this humanity. …
From that point,
God placed all of His expectations of humanity on Noah's family,
hoping they could live under His blessings and not His curse,
hoping that they would never see God destroy the world with a flood again,
and also hoping that they would not be destroyed" (The Word Appears in the Flesh).
From the rainbow covenant, we can see the Creator's love for mankind.
Well, the punishment of God and the sadness of God
is something the audience should infer from the symbols,
because you respect and honor a tradition,
which is in Jewish art and also in most Protestant art.
Catholics are sometimes a little bit different,
particular in the Renaissance with Michelangelo.
But Jews and Protestant Christians
normally do not represent the God of the Old Testament.
You never see the face,
of course you see the face of Jesus, but that's in the New Testament,
what you call the Age of Law and the Age of Grace,
as opposed to the Age of Law.
When dealing with what you call the Age of Law,
most Protestant artists would never represent God,
and Jews of course would never represent God.
I believe you respect this tradition,
you still maintain this tradition of
not representing the God of the Old Testament or Jehovah,
you represent of course the Christ.
And so if we want to understand God in the Age of Law,
we have to look for the symbols.
There are symbols that the flood happened
and there are symbols that Adam and Eve had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden,
but we don't see God doing this,
so we should be able to read the symbols in your painting,
and to understand the reasons for God's punishments and the sadness of God
in administering these punishments from reading of the symbol.
Professor, as we've already mentioned,
the paintings created by The Church of Almighty God
are primarily used in its movies, videos, and musicals,
which have been uploaded to the Internet.
They are used to proclaim and testify God's work of the last days,
and have attracted the interest of more and more people around the world
who wish to find out more about Almighty God's work.
Well, your movies are enjoyed also by many
who are not members of The Church of Almighty God,
because they've been presented in international festivals.
I also believe the number of downloads of these movies on the Internet
indicates that they are seen by many who are not members of The Church of Almighty God.
So, much more than the paintings,
the movies communicate to an external audience.
I believe there are two things to say about this:
First is clearly these movies are from The Church of Almighty God,
I mean if you know The Church of Almighty God,
you can understand that
the message being conveyed is the message of Almighty God.
But second, the movies also communicate through their artistic quality.
Very often they speak of universal values
that such as goodness, the kindness, the love, the family,
the relationship between the children and the parents,
the relation between serious life and modern life,
which sometimes is mostly about having fun and losing your time,
so these values are universal
not only in The Church of Almighty God
and can be recognized also by non-members.
For people who go to Christian film festivals,
they don't know the theology of The Church of Almighty God,
but they recognize there is a good message in these movies.
There are other movies you did
about internet addictions or problems of families after divorce.
Of course, there is always a distinctive reference to Almighty God ('s words),
but these are problems
millions of people, perhaps the majority of the population in the Western encounter.
So, it's not surprising for people
who knows precious nothing about The Church of Almighty God,
when they see this movie and say,
"It should have been done by people of good spirit,
we want to learn more about that."
Yes, Professor.
Good artworks have a positive effect and a positive influence.
This is the result of God's guidance and His blessing.
These movies are beneficial to each of us.
Well, I believe your movies fall into distinct categories,
and in general, as you say,
I have devoted considerable time to studying the sociology of the art
and the art in connection with religious movements.
There is always a delicate balance between the message and technique,
because, of course, for religious people the message is more important,
but the message you can print without any illustration and music,
that's the pure message.
Now some people would just like this as it is.
But particularly in the modern world,
many people will find (that it's) very difficult
to focus the attention on a mere sheet of paper with words,
and they will need, at least in the beginning, to be reached
by the message with sounds, with music, with dances, with images.
So there is the message in religious art,
but there is also a technique for communicating the messages.
In the Catholic Church,
we had Pope in the 1960s-1970s, called Paul VI.
He was very much interested in the arts,
but he also said that we live in the "civilization of the images,"
meaning if you give people an important text, they will not read,
but if they see bright images, they will start being interested.
So you have the same problem as everybody else in religious art,
how to keep the message at the center of the production,
and how to use techniques that will be attractive to people,
and clothe the message with quality images and the quality music
to attract the audience.
As I say, there are different categories of your productions,
though some productions are very simple.
There is a minimum of technique and a lot of messages,
in some cases for instance,
the words of Almighty God are just read by some person with a good voice,
and read it in an expressive way,
and that is a lot of messages and not a lot of technique.
In other cases, like Xiaozhen ('s Story),
you have a lot of technique,
and of course also you have the message,
but the message is conveyed by a very rich technique.
In the middle, there are documentaries
like Chronicles of Religious Persecution in China,
all these things really happened,
so we normally in the West,
we would call it docudrama or dramatization of something which really happened.
So I believe that's a very valuable work,
but the value of a docudrama film
is in its capacity of telling the truth and telling the true story,
and that's precisely what happened.
I also believe
Chronicles of Religious Persecution in China did deserve the awards it won,
because it's technically very well realized.
I mean the audience is really involved in what is happening,
but also it maintains the main rule of the docudrama,
which is to tell stories that can be verified as actually true
and really happened outside of the screen.
Yes.
Professor Introvigne,
I've heard you are a big fan of musicals.
Of our musicals that you've seen,
which one impresses you the most?
Would you like to share with us?
Take Xiaozhen …
Xiaozhen's Story.
Xiaozhen's Story musical,
it's not surprising because it has been very successful
also among people who do not belong to The Church of Almighty God,
because it has a very high technical quality.
The persons who participated in it may be professionals or amateurs,
but the quality is very high,
and also of course there are references to Almighty God ('s words),
but the general plot, the general outline of the story,
it resounds to universal values that many people can share,
and also to the problems young people encounter today.
I believe, everybody can understand.
New Heaven and New Earth (God Will Restore the Former State of Creation)
is really about the future of humanity,
and this eternal struggle between God and Satan.
In the end,
we are offered a glimpse of what will happen next
with the coming in the flesh of God, that's Almighty God,
and the possibility for humans to be purified
and to enter in the future everlasting kingdom.
In the meantime,
there will be catastrophes prophesied precisely in the Book of Revelation,
so this is of course a modern way of taking on a very old theme.
What is discussed in New Heaven and New Earth (God Will Restore the Former State of Creation)
in a way is the essence of Christianity,
it's (about) what is the meaning of this world,
and why in this world something goes wrong,
can we enter into a different world, where the works of Satan will be defeated,
so these are eternal themes in particularly Christianity.
But I am not aware of any other discussion of these themes in the form of a musical.
So you have a very modern way of interpreting these traditional themes.
I believe the musical is ultimately successful
in conveying the sense of urgency
and this sense of awareness that we are living in the last days,
even if we should always be careful when we say "last days,"
when this refers to The Church of Almighty God,
because many people including scholars, when they hear "last days,"
they immediately compare with religions
that predict that this world will be destroyed,
while you do not predict that the world would be destroyed,
it would be changed.
Yes, that's true.
You know, in The Church of Almighty God,
God has prepared talent from all kinds of industries.
Most of them didn't graduate from specialist institutions.
They're just doing what they love.
When they first started producing these works, they had no path,
but after praying to God and relying on God,
they were enlightened by the Holy Spirit,
and were able to produce a lot of great works in a short period of time.
When they produced these artworks,
they experienced God's work and saw the deeds of God.
Without the Holy Spirit's work and His blessing,
no one of them could have done this.
Because they don't rely on their abilities, but on God.
Well, for believers, inspiration comes from God,
but even non-believers will say
that artists, sometimes when they create, they become different.
Americans like to say that in art,
there is a percentage of inspiration and a percentage of perspiration.
Perspiration means sweating, means you should sweat a lot in training.
The dancing in your musical is a good example,
because I'm sure there is inspiration
that shows these people believe in God and do it for God,
but I'm sure there is also perspiration as the Americans would say,
because we can see how many times they trained and rehearsed,
so there is a lot of sweat and efforts going in this.
So surely, the amateurs can produce something very good,
but when I look at the production of Xiaozhen's Story,
perhaps some of them are more than amateurs,
because they were trained before or trained after leaving China,
but the quality is very much professional,
and that's also true in most of your musicals.
The musical appears to be very professional.
Professor, you just mentioned
that artworks of the Church convey to the audience the words and the way of Almighty God.
According to one of your articles,
you said "'Beauty' is, first, an inherent feature of the words of Almighty God,
described as uniformly 'beautiful and moving.'
The presence of Almighty God on Earth is not only momentous and decisive:
it also creates unprecedented beauty.
One of the distinctive characters of the new kingdom of God is 'beauty.'"
Professor, I totally agree with you on this point,
would you like to talk a bit more about it?
Yes.
From very early in the words of Almighty God,
we find the words about the beauty.
I believe we can read The Word Appears in the Flesh,
as also the announcement of a new beauty.
It's surely that Almighty God announces the truth,
but at the same time, when truth enters the world, carries with it the beauty,
that's a very old Christian theme that returns.
By the way,
that the beautiful, the good, and the true,
it's a very old theme in Christianity.
I believe it's clearly announced by Almighty God
in The Word Appears in the Flesh,
because we read that not only the words of God are beautiful in themselves,
they also make this world more beautiful.
I know there are no miracles in the Age of Kingdom,
but there is a miracle of sort in the fact that the beauty enters into the world.
In my article,
I quoted a very impressive passage in The Word Appears in the Flesh
where Almighty God says that when people return to God
and when this truth of God starts being spread into the world,
even the rivers and the forests and the sky become more beautiful.
It seems to me a very deep message
and perhaps something which needs to be studied
by the few people outside The Church of Almighty God
who study The Word Appears in the Flesh,
because the theme of the beauty perhaps is a little bit neglected,
but it's also important in the book.
Professor Introvigne,
thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
We really appreciate your time.
Thank you.
Thank you so much for watching.
We'll see you next time.
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访谈 (Massimo Introvigne: Visual Artworks of The Church of Almighty God Convey a Very Deep Message)

223 分類 收藏
yi.ping 發佈於 2018 年 5 月 10 日
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