Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Christian Marketplace - Day 7

(For reference: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6)

Time to wrap up this topic before it becomes "Day 33". Helps me to have something to say each day, but I don't want to end up rambling either. Today is mainly scattershot, dealing with a few separate issues.

1. Looks like I was anticipating what CCM Magazine was doing. Now instead of CCM standing for "contemporary Christian music," it stands for "Christ. Community. Music." They will be discussing musicians who are Christians, not just ones that publish under "Christian" labels to Christian book stores. Here's CCM's announcement, and a response at a Christianity Today blog, as well as a listing of some of the musicians that don't fall under the CCM label.

2. Becky asked about false teaching. Good question! Next? (Just kidding)

Again I think it comes back to realizing that pop culture shouldn't be where we get our discipleship and daily bread. This issue can get very tricky because some groups consider speaking in tongues as "false teaching" whereas Pentecostals hold that dear as a Biblical teaching. I know she is referring to major issues like the person/deity of Jesus. I think that major Christian publications will probably catch a lot of these. A prominent preacher, Carlton Pearson, who had released gospel albums and had performed with Carmen, started teaching universal salvation. Quickly this was reported in Charisma magazine, and most national figures he associated with pulled away from him.

I think my point is that it is not up to us as consumers to be the Holy Spirit for the artists. There is a fine line on this issue, for sure. The review of The Light of Eidon mentioned on day 2 suggested there was an inappropriate bedroom scene and the book should be avoided. I argue that the scene was NOT inappropriate (the scene doesn't have anatomical references, and is the literary equivalent of 2 people kissing on scene while the camera fades) , but perhaps more than some people (mainly young kids) should read. I would like to see a reviewer say, "Hey, this book has [this], be careful" rather than the way it was handled in the above example. What if it was more explicit? It does get trickier there. I don't pretend to have all the answers in this case. I think we know when something is grossly wrong, but The DaVinci Code might prove me wrong. Of course, Dan Brown is not a Christian producing art, which is my premise...

3. There is a real movement to try and encourage excellence in Christian fiction and music. Why not? Should we do anything less than our best for our Lord?

There has been a stigma with these arenas that Christian fiction or music was synonymous with lesser quality - that the art was merely packaging for a sermon. There are a lot of conversations on the web regarding letting our creativity be for art's sake first of all. I've touched on that in this series, and just a few places that discuss this include Infuze, Faith in Fiction, and the Master's Artist, as well as many individual blogs. I love the conversations at these places, and want to see some tangible results from it all.

However, I have sensed a critical spirit creeping up as a reaction to the "lesser quality" charge. It is almost that, to get away from this label, we can't acknowledge or enjoy lesser works. In certain circles, it is almost a badge of shame to say you liked the Left Behind books. Were they high literature? No. Did I read some? Yes, until I grew tired of the formulaic delivery in each book. Should I be snooty over someone who read and enjoyed them? Hopefully those who read Left Behind have moved on to read more Christian fiction.

Is the quality label fair? I've seen plenty of bad books and music in the secular arena, yet Christians get unfairly stigmatized in my opinion. There used to be less choice in the CBA, but this has really begun to change over the last several years.

Mark Bertrand had a timely post called "Bring on Bad" where he admitted that bad books can be fun and serve a purpose, with a link to a Sunday Times article "Why Not the Worst?" (may require free registration) that also discusses the same topic. Now Mark is a paragon of good taste and a good voice for improving our craft, to aspire to the classics and not just good enough to get published. I don't want to tarnish his image here ;) . But it touched on this feeling of criticalness I've been feeling in some circles.

When I did 9 months of Bible school, one of the best things I did was to bring a few old Louis L'amour novels. I'd read them many times when young. After months of studying and living and breathing Biblical times, it was a real treasure to sit down with something unrelated, something I didn't have to really think about, and enjoy it. They followed the L'amour formula to a tee, but it was nice to have such a mental break.

I want to see Christians produce the highest quality fiction, music, paintings, films, or whatever medium they choose to create in, as we are motivated by the greatest Creator. But we don't have to get too uptight about it either.

Have I said enough now? I think so. Fire away with questions, comments, concerns, quibbles, or complaints.


  1. No quibbles or complaints here.

    Bill over at Spiritual Oasis had a great quote from a book he's reading that touches on your series topic:
    The danger of labeling things “Christian” is that it can lead to our blindly consuming things we have been told are safe and acceptable. When we turn off this discernment radar, dangerous things can happen. We have to test everything. I thank God for the many Christians who create and write and film and sing. Anybody anywhere who is doing all they can to point people to the deeper realities of God is doing a beautiful thing. But those writers and artists and thinkers and singers would all tell you to think long and hard about what they are saying and doing and creating. Test it. Probe it. Do that to this book. Don’t swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it. Just because I’m a Christian and I’m trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn’t mean I’ve got it nailed. I’m contributing to the discussion. God has spoken, and the rest is commentary, right? (pgs. 086-087, Velvet Elvis)


  2. Tarnish my image? It already has a nice patina!