I think it all began with idol makers back in the Old Testament. They made something that was so new and shocking, it got people’s attention and they actually set it up as something worth bowing down to. Over the millennia, it has trickled down in various forms, sometimes manifesting itself through religion, sometimes through music, art, or dance. But, no matter how you look at it, shock value continues to prove its worthlessness as a true, creative currency.
It’s nothing new. People have been getting naked and making offensive statements and paintings and songs for thousands of years. So, what makes people continue to pay attention to all of the stuff we see a la Gaga and Cyrus? Could it be that people get bored with their “normal” lives and need extra stimulation? Maybe it’s because there’s a realization that some things have been done before and the shocking seems novel. No matter what it is, when people become desensitized to the “shock” of today, how insane will the next thing have to be to get consumers of crass to point their antennae toward it?
Around a decade ago when my wife was a student at the University of Georgia at the Lamar Dodd School, we saw a student exhibit that included a drawing of crucified male genitalia. At the time, we both were appalled by the image; offended. As Christians, it made no sense to us why someone would go out of their way to make such an image. But, as time went on, it became clear that other people were going to try to outdo even that image. But, instead of it becoming more and more shocking, the material became less and less artistic and meaningful. Instead of making informed and important statements, the students were obviously only looking for attention. How artistically disappointing. The art became all about the artist. And as any good artist should know, the artist is the LAST thing you should think about when considering the art form.
So, what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see something akin to live porn acts. Extreme violence could be the next wave with something akin to the Roman Colosseum. But, no matter what it is that seeks to shock us next, it will never be so powerful as the thing that engenders love, peace, and joy in the human soul. I hope we look there first and leave the shock in its proper place; Hinnom…