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multivalent meanings and influences of art upon religion

With the advent of the new century, scholarship in art and religion has formulated new critical questions arising from both contemporary events and a growing global recognition of the broader ethical and societal responsibilities for cultural heritage. The recent loss of works of religious art through natural disasters, war, and violent acts of iconoclasm has focused attention on the role of religion in fomenting or silencing acts of destruction, whether initiated by environmental neglect or military activity. Further analysis as to religious meaning and cultural value of the works selected for destruction is a topic for new studies from the perspective of art and religion. The related critical question for art and religion study is that of the complex ethical and moral issue of the “theft” or transfer of art from one country to another on the grounds of protection or military conquest, and the potential for repatriation. Another new critical question, which may be related to the primary question of “what makes art religious?” and which simultaneously impinges upon the ethical quagmire of ownership, is the collecting and display of religious art in institutional environments such as public museums and special exhibitions, thereby in sites and for uses distinct from those sacred criteria for which it was created, and perhaps consecratedthe Nature of the Relationship(s)The oftentimes controversial and amorphous interconnections between art and religion proffer five distinctive relationships that can be categorized as distinguished by power (Apostolos-Cappadona, 1996) and that extend beyond mana to include economic, gendered, political, societal, and religious concepts of power. The first is authoritarian, in which art is subject to religion. The authoritarian relationship permits no place for artistic creativity, individuality, or originality; rather, art and artists are controlled by the higher authority as art becomes visual propaganda. The second relationship is that of opposition, in which both art and religion are equal powers, and while neither is dominated or subservient to the other, there is a constant struggle to subjugate the other. The third relationship is one of mutuality when these two “equals” inhabit the same cultural environment in a symbiotic union of inspired nurture. The fourth relationship is separatist, as each operates independent of and without regard for the other, as in an iconoclastic religious environment or a secular culture. The fifth relationship is unified, so that their individual identities become so completely blended into a single entity it is impossible to discern what is art from what is religion.