I often have the same experience when I listen to “worship music” or read “Christian fiction”. If we’re honest, just about every song we sing in church or listen to on K-Love these days sounds exactly the same, and it’s not just because they all use the same four chords. It’s real easy to get lost in a “Christian bookstore”, because every story we find is nothing more than an adaptation of a biblical story set in the eighteenth century.
Okay, Jon, so why the vendetta against “Christian art”, and why all the pretentious quotations? Maybe I am being a bit harsh, but I believe there are better questions to be asking.
When did “Christian” become a genre? Why does the “worship music” industry only seem to indorse one type of sound? Why does every “Christian film” need to end in some sort of alter call for it’s prodigal character?
Christian art, in my view, is anything created with the intention and hope of bringing glory to God. Worship is our way of expressing and giving worth to that God, and creating is our way of reflecting the image of God that he has placed upon us. We create to give glory to a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the author of every story under heaven. So it makes absolutely no sense to me that “Christian” is one of the most limiting and uninteresting genres in music, literature, and film.
If we truly desire to reflect and give glory to God, the depths of whose presence and love are unsearchable, then there should be no limit to the stories we can tell through our art. Yet as it stands, “Christian art” is utterly and easily searchable. In fact, we’ve been searching the same old places for the last twenty years or so. The “worship sound” has made very little development since entering the new millennium, and most “Christian films” still look like they should be on the Hallmark Channel in the 80s.
Why is this so dangerous?
Art is a reflection of culture. And with art that is so limiting, it’s no wonder that society’s perception of the Christian life is one of stuck rules and regulations. This is how life with God is viewed because this is the message we put out there, that there is one story to be told, that God fits in a category, and if you don’t like that category, then you don’t like God, and you don’t fit in.
With the parables he told, Jesus brought a new word into the first century conversation. He challenged social norms, he made people angry, and he refused to be put into a box. His heart was intimately connected with an unsearchable God, and therefore the stories he told were also unsearchable, diverse, excellent, and most of all, honest.
There are many artists out there who are beginning to take this posture of creating new, fresh, innovative sounds and stories for God. But we are so hesitant to bring them into the “mainstream” because we are simply afraid. I understand that the responsibility is great when we say we’re “creating for God” because we would never want to misrepresent him, or say something that bears a false image. But this fear has crippled us to the point where we are now only creating one-dimensional, boring, unskilled images of God. If this is our message, then we are misrepresenting him. We cannot allow our fear to keep us from, as his word says, singing a new song to the Lord through the art we create.
If we allow God control of our hearts, and our heart are where we create from, then we’re creating from a place where he has control. If we begin to do this, as Jesus did, I don’t see how we could misrepresent him. Not only that, but with the all-powerful, all-knowing, dynamic God on our side, how could we not absolutely revolutionize a culture with the stories we tell?
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