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The separation of the sacred and secular

Posted by Chance on June 28, 2007

I have noticed that in art, particularly in music, there is a strong separation between CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) and secular music. This line is being blurred somewhat, with some crossover artists, but it seems that someone is a “Christian” artist, or they are not.

My question is this, is this a good thing?

The reason I ask is that I am not sure this separation always existed. Da Vinci painted religious themed portraits like The Last Supper, but he wasn’t known as a “Christian” artist, and he painted non-religious things as well. People didn’t ask “Oh, he painted The Last Supper, is he a Christian artist now?” Classic composers (of whom I know little about) would compose works inspired by their faith, but sometimes they would not be. It seems that there were many classic poets and authors (correct me if I am wrong, as I left all my poetry books at home) would speak on spiritual themes, sometimes they would not. There was not a question of whether they belonged to the Christian genre or not.

This may be a good thing, because much of secular culture is quite distant from Christian values, based on the things they glorify. Maybe as the secular becomes more profane, this distancing is inevitable.

Why would it be a bad thing?

Perhaps it has to do with the overall quality of art. I will be honest, there is much CCM I don’t care for right now; much of it seems second-rate. Maybe it’s just an issue with me though. But I notice that many great artists are those that are Christian, but not in the “Christian” genre. U2 is the most glaring example. Three of the four members are Christian, and many songs are very spiritual. Another lesser known band is the Innocence Mission that has many spiritual songs as well, and even has an album of hymns. Some of the highest quality CCM bands are now crossing over, or at least have a foot in the mainstream, such as Switchfoot or Skillet.

So, I don’t know if my concerns have any foundation. Basically, I have noticed that much great art of the past was influenced by Christianity but was not in a genre separate from everything else. Today, I notice a distinct separation in many cases, and it seems that many times the “Christian” side is inferior, whereas those artists that may have some mainstream involvement are the superior bands. (To be fair though, it is understandable that the creme of the Christian crop would get mainstream attention). At the same time, I know we, as Christians, are called to stand out and not blend in.

As a final note, there seems to be a distinct exception in the genre of country music. Carrie Underwood has a hit called “Jesus, Take the Wheel” but there is not a debate on whether she is a Christian artist. Garth Brooks will have overtly religious songs on his album, but at the same time sing about a woman killing her unfaithful husband (I don’t say that to be critical, as I don’t think he is glorifying or justifying murder, I am just illustrating the main point of my post). There does not seem to be a big “Christian country” genre. What is so different about country?

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2 Responses to “The separation of the sacred and secular”

  1. John Kaiser said

    “Da Vinci painted religious themed portraits like The Last Supper, but he wasn’t known as a “Christian” artist, and he painted non-religious things as well. People didn’t ask “Oh, he painted The Last Supper, is he a Christian artist now?”

    There also weren’t many choices back then. Back in those days you were either Catholic or Jewish. And being Jewish didn’t bode well. In addition, it was hard to differentiate between the secular and religious world since religion and government were so deeply entangled.

    So now at days when we have a very secular society it is important that artists can be upfront and separate themselves as “Christian.” The market is flooded with spiritually unprofitable pop, rap, rock, etc. and until recently Christian music was very limited in number of genres and number of performers- outside of church choirs.

    Also, I would ask, can you think of any works of Leonardo that aren’t Christian or don’t have Christian overtones? Aside from portraits of course.

  2. […] by Chance on July 4, 2011 Some of this stuff I’ve touched on before, in this post, but I wanted to explore it a little bit […]

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