Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thoughts on Violence in Word and Deed

It seems in the blogosphere there has been new conversation on the topic of language use and violence in Christian art. Note that the ideas presented aren't necessarily new, but a healthy conversation is brewing in a few different sectors. 

Mike Duran is always up to stirring up contention, discussion on his blog Decompose. He uses the example of the counting of different potentially offensive terms in the movie The Blind Side to springboard into a discussion of language in Christian fiction. His recent novel The Resurrection had a jaded construction worker, who couldn't say damn or hell because it was produced for the CBA market.

In the recent issue of Relevant, Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay asks if "offensive art can be Christian." He starts off talking about a secular band declaring their allegiance  to Jesus in a song that also drops an F-bomb. Does the fact that they used such a word demean their otherwise Christian content? For a little more food for thought, check out this quote from the article:
We have come so far from reflecting the rebel Jesus in our art and cultural engagement that we do not recognize Him when He surfaces. I still wrestle with the fact that Jesus hung out with prostitutes not simply to tell them what they were doing wrong, but to love them where they were. He was in the world, and His agenda was to love. He was not looking for reasons to be offended. He was not looking for reasons to stay home, safely out of harm’s way. We weren’t set apart in order to live apart. We were called God’s own so we could confidently go into the world. 
 In a contrary grain, another author writes in Relevant that "Christian artists should (not) use violence." He uses the term "violence" to include gratuitous sex and language. His contention is that the world is so jaded that using rough violence or stark violence or sex doesn't faze the world anymore. When our morals were on a similar level, works like Flannery O'Connor's provided a shock that hit complacency. Now when modern art tries to find new levels to shock and awe, then perhaps the answer  for the Christian artist is to paint a picture of beauty to be the contrast.
Whatever should be done, it is clear the Christian artist faces a peculiar enemy today: the expanding boredom of the modern age, which has the power to wash out even the severest expressions, and violence is its latest casualty. It is the constant duty of the Christian artist to outwit this amoebic tendency to consume and excrete, to make retail of riches. She must forge new paths of expression and restore old ones. When the world builds for itself a Tower of Babel, then she must paint a pile of rubble, and then when it is knocked down and the peoples wander in the refuse, she must paint a glittering city with jasper walls and foundations of precious stone. 
 A very intriguing article, and if you have to pick one, I think this would be it.

Finally, the flavor du jour here has been The Civil Wars. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Joy Williams describes the freedom she now experiences being out of the Contemporary Christian Music realm.
“The process of being with John Paul  (White, her band partner) is this wonderful discovery of creative freedom that I didn’t know that I had,” she said. “I started in a very restrictive genre of music. But the reality is that I’m able to write a lot more about the world around me, if it’s about faith or about cigarettes, or about murder or adultery, or about a movie that I saw, or a book we’ve both read.”  Emphasis mine.

I like to put out interesting thoughts and articles for people to explore more. If you have thoughts on it, I'd enjoy your comments here as well.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting quotes! I'd almost have to lean toward the second one, that we have to paint the alternative to this world (Christ, and his love) as beautifully and/or a poignantly as we can. That is the true contrast in this day and age. And I didn't know Joy Williams had "moved on". Hmmm...