Friday, May 11, 2007

Christian Marketplace - Day 6

It's amazing how sick kids and internet connection problems will kill your posting schedule. Be that as it may, here's day 6 of "The Christian Marketplace". (Once again, to see the discussion: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5)

I ended the last day with the point "Give [the artist] the freedom to make the [art] they want, whether their main motivation is creative or spiritual." My theme was the idea of letting the artist proceed with the major motivation that is driving them. If a band's goal is to make a worship album, then I would want them to make the best worship album they can. If they are writing about some of the hard questions in life, then make it to the glory of God, even if it doesn't answer the questions in 2 verses, a bridge, and the chorus.

The church has always struggled with a balance of the sacred and the worldly in art. How long were artists not allowed to draw the human body or other aspects of creation so as to "not have any idols"? Then again, how many artists had God as their motivation to make some of the greatest works of art in Western civilization?

Today Christians struggle with the idea that if they don't try to use art as a vehicle for the gospel, then they are not truly "using their gifts for God." I don't think I agree with that. I did a little series back in September on Art and the Bible. In that I discussed how esteemed Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer didn't believe it either. If you create art with the only idea of carrying a message, he said it is little more than a tract. However, he felt a body of work would reveal a person's worldview.

Again, Becky had a pertinent comment:
The pastor (Allistair Begg) described two errors--one being Christians who isolate from the culture to cling to the truth and the other those who participate in the culture at the price of truth. In the first instance, he said, the Christians have the truth but no one to share it with. In the second, they have lots of people, but have lost the truth to give them.

This is true, but I would hope that any Christian worth his salt (pun intented) would find a way to speak of Jesus, whether through their lives or their art. I know that I could not write without at some point speaking of my faith. However, I am not prepared to make that the defining principle for anyone else.

Again, I use the example (again, which is extreme) of Britney Spears. In her early days she tried to say that her faith could co-exist with her sexual persona. Unfortunately we have seen how that has played out. I don't pretend to know what the eternal state of her soul is, but it is obvious by the fruit that she is having problems. A different artist is Carrie Underwood. She sings standard country music songs about cheatin' and lyin', but her biggest hit is still "Jesus Take the Wheel". Also, even though I am not a country music fan, she does not seem to be cancelling out her witness by having public problems like Ms. Spears.

Am I beating a dead horse yet, or is this making sense? I guess my overall admonition would be that, in the field of pop culture, we (as a consuming audience) need to let Christian artists follow their call as best they are able, and give them grace if they do something artistically that doesn't follow with our "preferred career course" for them. If Third Day wants to make a kicking rock album because they feel the freedom to, then by all means! If Ted Dekker writes a stunning novel that doesn't spell out the gospel by page 300, because he has an artistic vision of what he is trying to accomplish, then kudos for him. If you don't like it, leave it, don't stumble over it, and see if you can pick up with them later. Michael W. Smith followed Amy Grant's example in the early 90's of writing wholesome love and pop songs, and had some mainstream success. However, that phase of his career has passed, and now he is writing the most worshipful music I've seen from him. This proves my point - over his storied career he probably has lost people on the way, only to pick them up later. If not, then he picks up new ones.

I don't think I've exhausted this topic, but I believe I'm about done for the time being. Tomorrow I just want to wrap up some loose ends dealing with the question of "false teaching" and quality vs. the joy of bad books!


  1. More good stuff, Jason.

    You said guess my overall admonition would be that, in the field of pop culture, we (as a consuming audience) need to let Christian artists follow their call as best they are able, and give them grace if they do something artistically that doesn't follow with our "preferred career course" for them.

    I can't fault that in any way. However, I think we can call other Christians to a higher standard, by our own examples, perhaps, and certainly by healthy discussion.

    Some Christian artists may not realize what they CAN do if they would but aspire to something higher.

    I've read over and over at different places that fiction should be entertaining and not message driven, not preachy.

    I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. Yes, we should entertain. That's part of the equation, but music and fiction are still vehicles of communication. There is something that the artist is saying. I would hope that we can challenge each other to the highest and best.

    That being said, I think it's important to note that what is best for me is not best for any other artist. Doesn't mean I shouldn't call on other artists to reach for his or her own highest and best.

    I guess I bring this up because I think sometimes the idea that an artist is free to write something other than a story/song pointing directly to Christ, is a cop out for some, an out allowing satisfaction with looking around us rather than setting our minds on the things of heaven.

    Thanks for the food for thought in this series, Jason.


  2. I agree with all of this. I guess I'm coming at it from the point of the audience and their responsibility toward the artist. It's not my job to tell an artist what to do, except by my support or lack thereof.

    Should we pray for them? By all means. And if we have a relationship with someone, we can definitely call them up. It's a measure of the connection to them I suppose. A reaction to that review of Hancock where the gal suggested her walk was not up to snuff.

    I don't *want* to see someone cop out, but I trust the Holy Spirit to work on them appropriately (not suggesting that you don't either...boy this gets tricky!)