Taking back the arts

What would happen if we, as Christians, took back the arts? Historically, Christians were the ones who lead in the creative arts. Painting, writing, music, etc. were all pioneered by Christians. Yet in the last couple hundred years Christian art, as a whole, has dropped into the background. Instead of being leaders in creating new art we have become the followers.

We no longer have (for the most part) authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, who wrote some of literature’s most enduring masterpieces. Instead we have  authors who try to imitate the world by writing vampire novels and then sticking some shallow Christian themes in them (Ted Dekker, I’m looking at you). Christian fiction has become nothing more than Christians who dress up and repeat their own beliefs and create nothing more than Christian propaganda. What would happen if we had authors who wrote deep, meaningful novels that are filled with good doctrine and good writing? Here is an excellent quote from an essay by Donald T. Williams on this topic:

good writers do not simply parrot these [religious] insights; they must take this doctrinal understanding and apply it to the concrete realities of human life. “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”

When we do not understand this distinction, Christian fiction becomes mere religious propaganda. “The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality.” Doctrine is a light to see human experience by, not a formula to be dressed up in a fictional disguise.

Another example would be film. Movies are a powerful tool, they can be extremely thought-provoking and emotionally moving. However, the majority of Christian films that have been made have  been so cheesy as to be only an embarrassment. And since most (please notice that I said “most”) Christians are either too lazy to reform the film industry or so hateful of it that they would rather see all theaters torn down and all movies burned, we have seen only a handful of films made by Christians that are well produced, acted and filmed. The cinema is an incredibly powerful tool that is being used by the world to its maximum potential, yet the Christians have yet to pick up this “tool” and really use it.

We could also take a look at music. Instead of pioneering in this arena, Christians have merely become imitators who try to be like the “cool older brother”. The majority of Christian artists try very hard to be like secular bands. They dress like them, sound like them and perform like them. Most try very hard to produce music that sounds like whatever is popular at the moment and then add some shallow and often times heretical lyrics into their songs. There is a major lack of innovation and originality. We have become followers instead leaders.

Or take a look at painting. Historically there have been many artists who created incredible masterpieces that showed God’s glory and holiness through their paintings. Yet recently Evangelical Christianity has grown somewhat hostile towards art, especially modern art. We don’t understand it and have seen it used wrongly so many times that we have distanced ourselves from it. Makoto Fujimura, a New York artist and author, has a great quote that I believe sums up this post:

“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.”

This is so true. This world’s culture has used the arts very well to further their agenda. They have grasped this tool and used it very to create books, paintings, music and film that teach their worldview. What would happen if instead of shooting ourselves in the foot by distancing ourselves from the arts we took took them back and transformed them into what God designed them to be?

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2 responses to “Taking back the arts

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