Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Christians Doing the Arts: Boldness

We don't try to enter the room just to sit in the corner. That should be our philosophy as Christian artists. That is to say, we don't involve ourselves in artistic culture, work to craft an excellent product, and then seek to speak our message only to ourselves and the tiny mass of people who already agree with us. We come into the room to speak with everyone.

This is a radically different philosophy than many Christians have today. Christian radio, for example, seems to consist largely of artists who are interested only in speaking their message to other Christians. Now, don't jump on me for that one. Of course we need Christians to minister artistically to fellow believers. But you are hard pressed to find Christians making music to engage, challenge, and bless the culture. Most of us are content to sing the same songs to one another, pretending as we do so that there is not a great planetic (yes, I made it up, it's my blog) mass of people who don't know Jesus and are going to hell because of it. Christian art is never merely art; it is never merely message, either, but it is art with a purpose. When the vast majority of our talented musicians, for example, seek only to share with those who already have been shared with, the gospel stays bottled up and the culture remains unredeemed.

Far better to boldly take one's music and message into cultural waters and see what happens. Do we expect great success? Well, it won't surprise us if we meet with rejection. But one never knows. We simply do our art and leave the rest in the hands of the One who controls all publicity, press, exposure, and acceptance. That means we can make bold, true, and honest art. Now I'm not saying we just preach the gospel. I would advocate a more sensitive form of art-making, one that respects artistic conventions, and that aims both for potency and subtlety. I admit that it is difficult to achieve this balance, but who ever said that making beautiful works of truth was easy? It's not supposed to be. When it comes to preaching, out with it--the whole counsel of God! But the arts are more subtle. Stories and songs and carvings and paintings are usually made more effective by the soft touch, not the strong hammer.

Do not understand me to say that Christians should not clearly preach the gospel--no! I'm not saying that. Preach the gospel. But don't treat every cd like a Bible study set to music, or every piece of canvas as a future parable scene, or every movie as a redemption tale. Salt your work with the gospel, and speak boldly and completely unapologetically when you do. But encompass all of life in your work. Speak notes of sadness and triumph and regret and satisfaction. Paint real, vivid, truthful pictures of life that make all who engage your work say, "There is truth here. This is life as I know it. This is thoughtful art." Our goal is to enter the room, and when we come in, to converse with others, and speak the words of Life to them, through whatever art form we love. In doing so, we should speak lovingly, carefully, and boldly, following the example of the One in whom all beauty and truth find their place.


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