Tuesday, August 19, 2008

faith and art (again)

as you may know, i am constantly interested in and drawn to the topic of faith and art, and i found a very interesting article about the quality of Christian fiction here. not only is the article a somewhat funny look at the issues around faith and art, but the discussion in the comments that follow is truly interesting. there are so many opinions about this subject, and just as many generalizations that are made, but i, for one, wish more christians would read stuff like this, just to understand how isolating ourselves from the world has had unintended consequences. in the name of being safe, or morally sound, or clean, or whatever the reason is, modern american christianity has created a subculture, also called a ghetto, of christianized stuff. this includes the arts. it also includes things like greeting cards, clothing, home decor, jewelry, and so on, but that's for another day's discussion. what i am interested in here is the idea (whether its true or not - i think it is) that christians have settled for making/reading/enjoying art that is sub-par at best, and sometimes downright terrible. what do you think about this? obviously it isn't true across the board, but is there some truth in this? read the article. tell me what you think. i'm listening.


Greg C. said...

I think the folks who said the reason Christian fiction (or modern Christian evangelical fiction, more specifically) is so bad is that the writers are focused on the message, not the story hit it spot on. Same with music - you can tell the artists who focus on the message rather than the music...that stuff sounds like all the rest and isn't interesting, original or anything you ever want to hear again. I especially liked the comment about if Dante had struck out to write a good story, not a great story, we wouldn't have the Inferno we have. I'd say ditto Lewis. I mean the Chronicles are great stories. Plus there is the Bible, which some people pointed out. Great stories there too!

greg. said...

exactly, greg. the strange part of it is that Christians who make art are sometimes led to believe that their art is invalid if it isn't evangelical in nature. and that is usually explained to mean that the message is at least as important, if not moreso, than the medium. for some folks, this is actually something that can be measured, and the qualifier is how many lives are saved, or how many decisions for Jesus were made, etc. i'm not even making this up. for large portions of the evangelical community, this is the pivotal point.

now, i will say i've seen change in recent years. after reading charlie peacock's book "at the crossroads" about christian music and how some christian record labels required you to use the word "jesus" a certain number of times or else they wouldn't produce the record, i have seen that things have changed some (some evangelicals would say that is because we are conforming to the world). but we still have far to go.

the other problem that exists in a great deal of christian art is that it is copy cat art. here's what i mean: if there is a really cool band out there who is making some really progressive interesting music (that people are buying - $$$ rules), but it isn't "clean," i.e. it has profanity or references to sex or violence, then the Christian community will often come out with a band that will match that. this is how we end up with huge charts in the christian music store that say, "if you like radiohead, try mutemath." it is also how we end up with the christian "stuff" i talked about sunday: t shirts, movies, romance novels, magazines, and so on and so on. i'm not saying that all those things are bad, but i do think that when they are simply christianized copies of something else, that we are cheating ourselves and doing a dishonor to the creativity latent within us and the One who put it there.

thanks for reading and responding to the post today. i was thinking everyone was just rolling their eyes when they saw another post about faith and art. i just can't leave it alone: it fascinates me.

Greg C. said...

No, I'm glad you've brought it up because it is fascinating and I think very relevant in today's post-whatever world. I just don't think God gave those gifts (writing, painting, making music, etc...) to people so they can go out and be copycats. Dishonor indeed. But hey, we are human after all...but by the same token, it's so awesome when you see or read or hear something truly original, truly inspired and yes, truly evangelical!