Unification News for January 2003

God and World Peace: Art and Culture

by David Eaton

The God Conference that was held in Washington, DC from December 26-29 under the auspices of the International and Interreligious Federation for World included a panel discussion of the influence of art and culture in developing a culture of peace.

As expected, the panel on the arts and culture proved to be a very intense and passionate dialogue on the importance of the arts in contributing to the development of a culture of peace. Art, by its very nature, is an exercise in emotion and subjectivity, and opinions about art tend to be emotional and highly subjective as well.

Both panel discussions on the arts were very well attended (40-50 participants at each session) and represented a highly diverse cross-section of ethnic groups, cultures and philosophical perspectives. The seven panelists also reflected this diversity.

The topic of the opening session was the implications of artistic expression with a particular focus on the moral and ethical power of the arts. In my opening remarks I established the Divine Principle/Unification Thought corollary of the original mind’s faculties of intellect, emotion with original truth, beauty and goodness. This became the premise on which to evaluate art in a comprehensive fashion, for it is not enough to assess art on the basis of aesthetics and/or the amount of truth it contains. Citing the ancient philosophers of China, Greece and early Christianity and their predilection for assessing art from an ethical perspective, it was very easy to guide the discussions towards a focal point.

The panelists and participants seemed in one accord on the importance of making moral and ethical distinctions in art. Dr. Tsing Fang Chen, winner of the 2001 United Nations Global Tolerance award (the first artist to be awarded this honor), gave an impassioned presentation on the importance of "global convergence" and made a convincing argument that there is a divine energy (God) behind the efforts of bringing Eastern and Western cultures together. He concluded his presentation with the exhortation that he believes that Rev. Moon’s vision of one cosmos under God is a fulfillment of everyman’s innermost hopes and dreams.

On the second day the focused shifted to the challenge of popular culture. Dr. Lloyd Eby, assistant editor to the World and I Magazine, alluded to the corrosive effects that artistic endeavors can have on society when a society fails to understand the importance of making distinctions between craft and content. He mentioned how art that is laced with morally questionable and/or disturbing content can adversely effect those in a precognitive state and how this subsequently contributes to a state of moral relativism. Dr. Eby convincingly put forth the supposition that inundating young people with depraved and decadent content desensitizes the moral sensibilities of society. However, he remains a strong proponent of freedom of expression and he cautioned against any attempt to infringe on artistic liberties.

Actor Kene Holliday and actress/singer Mzuri echoed this view in their testimonies about their experiences in their respective fields. Mzuri expressed her gratitude to Rev. Moon for his work in bringing all races and cultures to the table in discussing these matters.

As I expected, the issue of censorship came into our discussion. Several of the participants held strong views that censorship is necessary in certain cases (child pornography, e.g.). I gave what I believe to be the Unificationist view of censorship and artistic freedom in the context of a moral and ethical society.

From the view of Divine Principle, God endowed human beings with the attributes of creativity and freedom as an expression of love, for without freedom, love cannot exist. Freedom however, must be used in a responsible fashion. Subsequently, God also gave commandments and strictures as conveyed through the world’s religions. These strictures were to be the guidelines by which humankind should conduct itself morally (in one’s relationship to God) and ethically (in one’s relationship to the society in which he/she lives). In this sense the only censorship that should come into play is self-censorship---a condition where each artist evaluates his/hers creative endeavors in relation to the divine law of love for God and humankind.

Kene Holliday concurred by stating that to counter the corrupting influences in society that it is important to be a stronger advocate for decency and righteousness. He called for artists (and audiences), who adhere to a high moral standard, to make their views known by being a louder voice in the abyss of moral relativity and situational ethics. He cited several examples of how writing network executives and sponsors caused them to rethink their views about particularly objectionable programming. He said the we can make a difference but that doing nothing only exacerbates the problem.

Most of those who attended the arts panel expressed their gratitude to the conference directors and Father for convening this conference and including a meaningful discussion of art and culture. There seemed to be a strong consensus that the arts play a significant role in the process for creating a moral and ethical society and that a greater advocacy for moral accountability on the part of those creating and producing art.

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