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Christianity and the Arts

Posted by Chance on July 11, 2006

I just finished reading The Stand by Stephen King. Great book. I love epic battles between good and evil. 99% of the population gets wiped out by a disease, and the remaining people flock to the side of good or the side of evil.

The story is overtly religious. The protaganist is this 108 year old black lady who is a conduit for God reaching out to the remaining survivors. The antagonist is a henchmen of Satan, who you find out more as the story progresses. The heroes of the story have to depend on God and recite parts of Psalm 23 when confronted with evil.

Here is the interesting thing…if you took out the sex scenes and the profanity, you would have one killer Christian novel, dare I say one of the best. It has almost everything the Left Behind series does. It is a battle of God vs. the devil in an apocalyptic setting.

Which leads me to these thoughts and questions. It seems that in the arts, whether it be music, movies, books, or whatever, that the Christian products seem to be lagging behind their secular counterparts. Now, there are many talented Christian artists out there, but it seems that the actual quality of the product for secular artists seems to be better.

Let’s take Christian music for instance. There are many great Christian artists out there, but there are many that seem to be more cookie-cutter, uninspired. It seems like there is never a Beatles, or U2, or Radiohead in the Christian genre. And I am not just referring to how good a band is, but how daring they are. There are talented bands, but there are very few daring or innovative bands in the Christian genre.

Christian movies are getting better, and I think it is just another issue of Hollywood having such a head start. I was disappointed in the first Left Behind movie, I will discuss why later, I have not seen the other ones. I would say Christian fiction is comparable, probably because Christian books have been around longer.

I have to admit, this trend (primarily in movies and music) bothers me, because I believe that a relationship with Christ would naturally inspire the best art. And I think it can, look at The Last Supper or other classic works. So what’s going on with the Christian arts industry today?

I think that part of the issue is that Christians may focus on the message of the art and tend to neglect the art itself, perhaps. The message is the vital part, but I think God can be glorified through beautiful art as well. In the Psalms David mentions several times that the beauty of the natural creation points to the glory and wisdom of God. I think human creativity can as well, as it is a reflection of the creativity of God Himself.

A few things make me think this. I have noticed that many of my favorite bands are either Christian or have some familiarity with Christianity, but are not part of the Christian genre itself. U2 and the Innocence Mission are a couple bands that are Christian. Belle and Sebastian has one or more Christian members. I believe Collective Soul may have Christian members. Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls was raised Catholic, and his latest album shows some spiritual influence. What sets these apart from artists in the Christian music industry? They are just playing music; they are not trying to get a particular message across. Now, again, the message is important, but I think one can have the message of a Christian rock band, but have the art of a secular rock band. In fact, I think great art can help the message get across.

Another example is the first Left Behind movie. It got the message across, but there were so many things not captured from the book. The story takes place around the rapture of God’s people, in which millions or billions disappear. The movie focused on the message, but it missed out on focusing on the global drama and pure chaos that one could imagine happening should millions disappear. Now, this could just be a single instance of moviemaking that just happens to support my theory, but it does illustrate what I’m talking about. The drama and environment of the story gets neglected, with most of the focus on the message.

But here’s another question. As an artist who is a Christian, is it important to focus on producing some Christian message through the art, or having the art point in some way to Christ? For instance, is a musician who is a Christian obligated to produce Christian songs? Is a writer who is a Christian obligated to produce books that have a Christian message? And if so, should this be the case all of the time or just some of the time? I am glad that some do, because it gets the gospel across in the format of entertainment. Some artists, like Switchfoot or POD, are groups that started in CCM (Christian Contemporary Music), but eventually moved towards the mainstream. The good thing is that the artists reach more people, but some critics argue that the message has been watered down.

I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I can say for now is that it is just between the person and God. If they do desire to produce a message that points to God, I believe it is also important to focus on the quality of the art as well, as that helps with the message.

I know some readers have some actual artistic talent, unlike myself, so I’m interested in anything they have to say.

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7 Responses to “Christianity and the Arts”

  1. The Prophet said

    Hey, I’m keeping an eye on my hit counter next week… Lol!

  2. Heather said

    I like your blog! =)

    I don’t know why there hasn’t been a Christian artist that has become as famous as the Beetles or Elvis or whatever. Like you said, there are some Christian bands that have been just as good. A lot of bands that are Christians aren’t in it for fame or fortune, they are in it to share what God has called them to share. There are those that is about worshiping the Lord. I know of a worship artist that her music is great! I love it! The non-Christian world will not care to listen to her music because it talks about having a relationship with the Lord, breaking chains that bind, God’s heart toward us, but she is a great artist and sings with such passion. Her name is Misty Edwards. (Some Christians may not listen to her because of what she says in her songs) She doesn’t care. I think that if more Christian artists came out and said, “I don’t care if this group likes me or that group likes me. I am going to sing what God has placed within me to sing and do it to the best of my ability.” then that group will be great. It isn’t about “religion”. It about singing their hearts out to God. My best friend just made a CD in which she did this. She not only has a few songs that are about God, but songs that just share her heart. She told me, “I don’t care if I make it big or not. It would be nice, but if I don’t, I just want my music heart. I want the message to change lives.” Her music is not like anything that I have ever heard. It is really good!
    As far as movies are concerned, The Passion is one that did great! I thought that it was a good movie. It was very intense, but the message was put across. Mel Gibson didn’t care what the secular world or some of the Christians thought. He did what he felt his heart telling him to do that would honor God. That movie pointed to Christ. Many people came to Jesus because of that film. (Sorry that this is so long)LOL
    I just believe that if Christians would just step out of their comfort zone and be real, then they will go farther than ever. (Just my opinion)

  3. Heather said

    Oh…I am looking forward to you hosting Josh’s blog next week. =)

  4. Chance said

    Hey Heather,
    Thanks for visiting! Actually, I thought of the Passion this morning as an example of a great Christian movie, very well done. I think you are right in saying that the important thing is that Christians be real. And real doesn’t have to be always be all happy and warm and fuzzy. Look at the Psalms of David. He wasn’t always happy, he often said “God, what is going on, I’m miserable while the wicked are properous.” As long as Christians are genuine in their art, I think it will be powerful.

  5. Lee said

    Some good points Chance. I think that too often Christains give Christain art/music/whatever is given a pass because it is Christain. It like, “They’re singing about Jesus, so we can’t say that the music is crappy.”

    And simply artistically speaking, a lot of Christain music, but not the stuff you discuss, comes across as “Let me sing how really really (really) good God is, and then I’ll sing how really really (really) powerful He is.”

    While true, I need a bit more than that to hold my attention

  6. Lee said

    Some good points Chance. I think that too often Christains give Christain art/music/whatever is given a pass because it is Christain. It like, “They’re singing about Jesus, so we can’t say that the music is crappy.”

    And simply artistically speaking, a lot of Christain music, but not the stuff you discuss, comes across as “Let me sing how really really (really) good God is, and then I’ll sing how really really (really) powerful He is.”

    While true, I need a bit more than that to hold my attention

  7. Wasp Jerky said

    I have a lot of problems with “Christian” music (or movies or whatever). For one thing, separating the arts into secular and Christian is basically a heresy, an outgrowth of the dualism of seeing certain things in the world as spiritual and others as not spiritual. If God is God, God is the God of everything. There is nothing that an artist who is a Christian can’t write songs about or paint paintings about or make films about. So why have this Christian ghetto of Christian artists who make music only for Christian people? They say they’re doing it to share the gospel, but mostly the only people they’re “sharing the gospel” with are people who already know it. I suspect the reason many of these artists keep making art only for Christians is because they aren’t really good enough at their craft for anyone else to be interested.

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