When Art Disrupts Religion opens at London's Tate Modern Museum, with a young Evangelical man contemplating a painting by Mark Rothko, an aesthetic experience that proves disruptive to his religious life. Without those moments with Rothko, he says, "there never would have been an undoing of my conservative Evangelical worldview." The memoirs, interviews, and ethnographic field notes gathered by Philip Francis for this book lay bare the power of the arts to unsettle and overturn deeply ingrained religious beliefs and practices. Francis explores the aesthetic disturbances of more than 80 Evangelical respondants. From the paintings of Rothko to the films of Ingmar Bergman, from The Brothers Karamozov to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Francis finds that the arts function as sites of "defamiliarization," "comfort in uncertainty," "a stand-in for faith" and a "surrogate transcendence." Bridging the gap between aesthetic theory and lived religion, this book sheds light on the complex interrelationship of religion and art in the modern West, and the role of the arts in education and social life.
Philip S. Francis is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Maine Farmington and Melon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum. His research explores the shifting interrelationship of religion, art, and sexuality in the modern West.