Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Gary Badcock


As a massive phenomenon animating the world of cultural politics, kitsch sensibility emerges in Western Christian materialism as a means to easily mediate genuine, if sentimental, expressions of religious devotion. Scorned by others as the manipulation of “bad taste,” reverence through kitsch in contemporary religious art would be better taken to reflect a crisis in modern religious thought. This thesis employs the theological aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar to argue that modern Christian kitsch is the active mistaking of poor theological quality as a source of beauty, which is primarily felt as the sensibility of losing dynamis. Its evolution through late capitalism conveys an irreversible yet inevitable mutation of faith, understood by Slavoj Žižek as the “suspension of belief” in contemporary Christian consumerism and artful practice. Anticipating the restoration of quality is a reorientation of the imitatio Christi for the articulation of a new theological aesthetics.