In Defense of Kitsch

One thought on “In Defense of Kitsch”

  1. I suppose I should clarify what could have been misinterpreted in my originial article: I criticize Thomas Kinkade not so much because his art is bad as because I think it reinforces the idolatry of the American middle class.

    Most of Kinkade’s paintings feature cozy little cottages nestled into idyllic forest glades, grand estates with expansive grounds, or cheery villages decorated for the Christmas season. They offer promises of earthly security, prosperity, and happiness. Browsing through the Kinkade collection online, one prone to sentimentalism will no doubt develop feelings of nostalgia, longing to be at home in the beautiful scenery and perhaps even to recreate such scenes for oneself. The website itself, as part of a clever marketing ploy, seeks to encourage this tendency. For instance, it promises: “The stability of a stately family estate, the serenity of a peaceful getaway cottage, and the simplicity of the warmth of home, all remind us that home truly is where the heart is” and “Isn’t it great to relax at home, with the fire going strong and all your loved ones around you? These hearth and home scenes confirm the fact that what’s really important is family and the realization that your home is exactly where you belong.”

    Really? The home is where the heart is? Your home is exactly where you belong? I disagree with these sentiments, and I think Jesus does also. He warned his disciples that they should not store up for themselves treasures on earth, and he told them “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

    Consider instead what Jesus says about the Christian life: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) and “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36).

    Or consider the words of the author of Hebrews: “By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:9-10;13-16).

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