It’s that time of year when Christians ruin Christmas carols by adding in a bridge that completely clashes with the rest of the song, adds nothing of any real value, and basically tries to spice up linguistic gourmet with lyrical pop tarts. Seriously, how do you screw up “Joy to the World?” And who would dare think that “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” needed to be more Godly? Why are we ruining our own songs?!
And it’s not just music. Christian media in general is absolute garbage most of the time. I won’t say all, because there is some truly phenomenal stuff out there, but most of the mainstream Christian music, movies, and books are predictable and uninspired. I’ve diagnosed 5 reasons why.
5. The Stores
This one is slightly legitimate. Christian stores only sell to one kind of client, and that particular client is often pretty stingy. Therefore, the stores play it safe, putting out a zillion copies of the popular speaker’s new book while shoving the fiction to the very back. The same goes for movies and music.
The Christian stores aren’t about to take any risks. Worse yet, things in Christian stores are usually priced higher than other places. Legitimate or no, it’s still hard to get a customer to pay a high price for an unknown. Therefore, Veggie Tales, Beverly Lewis, and Chris Tomlin get plenty of shelf time. Everything else ends up in the Bargain Bin.
You won’t find any “edgy” content, and I say that in quotes because we’re talking relative here. One author told a story of how she used the word “vagina” one time and the Christian book store wouldn’t sell it. This wasn’t a sex scene, it was an anatomy lesson, but they still wouldn’t take it. This brings me to my second problem.
4. It’s All Rated G
The most-marketed Christian demographic is “wholesome family.” So we have stories about wholesome families doing wholesome things in wholesome places. On one hand, I get it: Christians don’t want to fill their heads with language, sex, and/or violence, and to some degree they shouldn’t. But at some point, “Family Friendly” is just plain silly and unrealistic. It also severely limits the kinds of stories we can tell.
But it’s actually worse than that. I’ve ranted before in another post, so I’ll be brief: the Bible isn’t rated G. It’s actually more like R. Ultra violence, rape, dismemberment, and go read Ezekiel 23:20 right now. Seriously, Google it if you have to. Good, now wash your brain out with soap, you nasty, nasty person!
The point is that Christianity has to get its hands dirty, and has to deal with the real world, so Christian art will have to do the same thing to some degree.
3. Limited Mediums
Name a Christian comic book. Now a video game. Now a photograph. Now a piece of fine art (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc). Now a theatrical performance (not a Sunday skit). Now a fashion line. Now an piece of architecture. Now a dance.
Christianity used to dominate most of these markets, yet now…what happened? Perhaps we’re too scared to touch them. But I believe it’s because we simply don’t acknowledge them. More on that in number one.
2. One Genre
Christian movies are inspirational. Christian books are about the Amish. Christian songs are reverent. Do you think I’m being too general? Name FIVE examples where I’m wrong in any one of these categories (a hundred points if you can do all three). Even if you can do that, this is still a serious problem.
We’re LIMITING ART! Where are the Christian comedies? The tragedies? The action movies? The sci-fi dramas? The fantasy (beyond C.S. Lewis)? The romances? Christian music has done well to branch out these days, but only a little. Where is the Christian techno? The heavy metal? Shoot, just make some more upbeat and high-tempo Christian music; we have enough ballads! Heck, I’ll even take some funk!
We must, must, MUST branch out if we’re ever going to call ourselves the images of the CREATOR!
And if I hear one more Christian hipster write a “song,” and I use that word loosely, I’m going to punch them in the fedora!
1. No Support from Christians
All throughout this list, you may have been thinking it, and I have alluded to it: there is some truly amazing Christian art out there, not just watered-down mainstream hogwash, but actual, incredible art. I think most modern Christians have at least one book/movie/song that defies the convention, so yes, I know that there is some really great stuff out there.
But we do not celebrate it.
A fellow blogger put it this way: Christians don’t know what to do with artists. We don’t understand how it can be “Christian” art unless it’s actively saying “Jesus” or “prayer” or “America.” Books and movies are only Christian if someone repents. Songs are only Christian if you can sing them during worship. Visual art is only Christian if it’s a picture of Jesus. A photograph is only Christian if it’s of a cross. A dance is only Christian if Casting Crowns plays in the background.
Bretheren, do you know that a piece of art can be Christian even if nobody mentions Jesus at all? Not even in allegory? Colossians 3:17 says that whatever we do, we are to do it all in the name of Jesus. This doesn’t just mean worship and evangelism. Any other profession, we would agree. A carpenter doesn’t just have to build churches. A teacher can teach any subject. A banker can work for Wells Fargo or Joyce Meyer and be just as Godly.
So why do we limit artists? Why can art not simply be fantastic art, even if it’s not evangelical? Did God not create art? Does our hard work, careful study, and dedication to integrity mean nothing to God just because we can’t show it Sunday morning? Does art not please God? Is he not the Creator, and are we not made in his image?
I have no problem with evangelical art, in fact I encourage it. But art itself has been sacrificed for the sake of “Godliness.” I use quotes because first of all, when we do half-hearted work, don’t expect Jesus to be overjoyed. Second, when’s the last time a non-Christian sat through a Christian movie long enough to convert?
Let’s celebrate art of all forms, and let’s celebrate the artists. That’s why I have the “Quality Christian Art” pages at the top of this blog, so I can do my part. Let us co-labor with Christ and create something truly amazing.
So holler now if you’re a Christian who makes art, tell us what you do, and link to your stuff!