In Boston Armand attended church regularly, made public profession of his faith, and discussed Calvinism with the John Knox Presbyterians. During this time he seems to have embraced not only Calvin’s suspicion of Catholics, but also his Dutch community’s suspicion regarding art. This became apparent when he delivered a speech to the members of Christian Endeavor, a youth group in the Presbyterian Church. His assigned topic: “Art and Religion.” Although he would change his views later, here’s what he wrote to his father in 1938: “I’m going to be frank about how art has in many ways been the downfall of the American Church, how subtle it is in contaminating the church’s purity (because of its ‘innocence’) and how it eventually leads into the theater, opera house, dancing, etc. This of course will have to include music.”
I’m talking about the Calvinists that I was brought up with. Now Calvin, he was very skeptical about the arts, all of the arts. He wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t realize it back then but I felt it repeatedly, in different aspects––from people, from clergymen, right down to laymen all throughout.
Here he asked his father’s advice wondering if a choir, much less a solo or a duet, is too exclusive and if church music should be limited only to what the entire congregation could sing in unison. This notion was what gave rise to those interminable Dutch psalms, curiously, the very psalms Armand had loathed to sing as a child. What’s even more puzzling here is not only his view that art corrupts the church but his apparent dismissal of the classical music that had brought about an earlier “epiphany.” Despite these apparent contradictions, he kept painting.