Soapbox: Christians and Art

On Wednesday I was writing a review for a musical album (which I highly recommend) and I got onto a rabbit trail about how many Christians view art. I realized that “Review Wednesday” was probably not the best place for a rant, so I just moved that rant to today.

I’ll be honest up front. I don’t listen to a lot of Christian music. There is far too much noise out there to sift through to find anything that is actually solid and beautiful. In my opinion, the Christian community is far too quick to accept anything that is remotely spiritual and since it is ‘Christian’ it would be impolite to critique it.

Because Christian music has a low standard and doesn’t have to worry about standing up to criticism in a public forum, it creates (in my opinion) an environment where real art rarely rises to the top. A good example of this is Thomas Kinkade. No one in the secular community would consider Kinkade a renowned artist. His art is rather basic and over-produced (I’d even question if he’s even doing the painting or if it’s his first year art students). But because he typically picks Christian themes, he has cornered a market.

Another example is the Christian film industry. While Courageous was far better than anything Christians have produced before, it doesn’t stand next to The Tree of Life on an artistic level (By the way, I didn’t like The Tree of Life). It barely even made it into the blockbuster category. Yet, as one woman told me, “I don’t care if it’s good art. All I care about is the message it’s getting across.” That’s a shame because we should care about quality.

Real quality art is a reflection of the image of God. Art is an abstract form which can be used for either good or evil. While I don’t want to get into the argument here, I don’t think there is any form of art which can be considered evil. It’s funny what people will accept and tolerate when considering art. The Sistine Chapel, which contains nudity, is somehow accepted by Christians because it has a biblical theme, while other contemporary art is disregarded because it doesn’t portray Christian themes.

I tweeted the other day that there must be a psychological disorder for people who watch TBN and think anything that is even remotely spiritual is the most precious thing. This is what I mean by that. I ran into a Christian lady who was gushing over all the good that was done by a Christian guy who had carried a wooden cross all over the world. Now he may be an amazing hero of the faith, but nothing was said about his efforts in soul winning, just that he had carried his cross over the Sahara desert and up remote mountains where no one was living. I don’t know how or why I’m supposed to be impressed by that. I don’t mean to be the wet blanket on the fire of Christian arts, I just think we could use a little more culture and stop just seeing the world in black and white – which is called discernment. 

Check out these videos from the gospel coalition which address this same issue.

Art, Conscience, and Theological McCarthyism
Bad Art and the Tortured Beauty of the Cross

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