Ever since I created my blog, I’ve had a link to Jamie Smith‘s blog Fors Clavigera. I’m a huge fan of Smith’s philosophical and theological publications, but I’ve been disappointed with the (in)frequency of his blogging. In this week’s blog post he reveals why he has been neglecting his blog: he’s been finishing a new book. The topic is one of my own personal areas of research, what I would call “liturgical ethics” or the way worship (really art in general) leads to moral formation. Smith puts it this way: “In short, I’m suggesting that before we can ever articulate a Christian ‘worldview,’ we are engaged in the practices of Christian worship. Drawing on Charles Taylor, I argue that the practices of Christian worship ‘carry’ within them an ‘understanding’ of the world that is better described as a ‘Christian social imaginary.'”
Smith’s book looks great. I’m especially excited about the section on Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann, 2001). It’s called “Why Victoria’s In on the Secret: Picturing Discipleship at the Moulin Rouge”. Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies. I don’t know exactly what Smith will write about, but if I were writing about Moulin Rouge and liturgical ethics, I would talk about the way writer-director Baz Luhrmann uses the language of pop music to express his own feelings (and the feelings of his characters). It’s precisely the way the writers of the New Testament use the text of the Old Testament — and the way the Church Fathers use the text of the New Testament. Baz has been “formed” by American popular culture the way we should be formed by the Christian tradition.
If you haven’t seen the movie, check out this scene for the best example of what Baz is up to. Another thing that is aesthetically interesting about Moulin Rouge is the way Baz “recontextualizes” pop songs, giving them a new meaning. I’ve already discussed this idea in my post on Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”, but my favorite example in Moulin Rouge is the cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. You can watch it here. Anyway, there’s more to discuss about Moulin Rouge, but I’m out of time for now.