Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bad Art

Mark Shea talks about why Christians make bad art. He insults the Little Drummer Boy but he raises a good point. Why is so much Christian art bad. His answer is a false sense of humility. Not sure that is it.

Christians have always made great art. But lately we have not seen so much of it. Certainly the Christian movies and music that have come out has contained very little excellent art. But that makes the mistake of trying to create art like the popular secular art. It is not a matter of an artist being moved by some aspect of the reality of God and expressing himself beautifully and honestly. It is a matter of Christians seeing what is popular and trying to create something like it. Then they work in the gospel message so we can get them saved. This is not the formula for great art.

Look at the Passion of the Christ. Please, look at at it! How did that come into being. Mel Gibson was not trying to make a movie like other Hollywood movies. He had an artistic vision that flowed from his experience of God and he wanted to make a movie that reflected that. People responded. He expressed something of God that touched many people. Nobody even said the sinners prayer. Still this was a means of great grace.

Then there was The Blind Side. That was a true story. What was amazing is they didn't sanitize it. Christians behaved badly. Sometimes when they did the right thing it was for the wrong reasons. Sometimes they were confused about what God wanted them to do. It was just messy. But a beautiful sort of messy. They could not show Michael Oher making an altar call because it did not happen. Somehow God worked anyway.

Good art does not come out of a desire to make Christians out of a bunch of sinners. It comes out of real experiences with God. Often they are painful and humiliating experiences. Evangelicals have a bad theology of suffering. Good art come from being honest with your pain. It is hard to do when your theology can't make sense of your pain.

If you ask evangelicals what is wrong with today's movies and music most of them say there is too much objectionable material. They are right but that is not the deepest problem. Just removing the sex and violence from them does not make them good. Some of them would be good but much of the time the sex and violence was all the art had going for it. The problem is not what is there but what isn't. That is the deeper beauty of God. Society is getting less and less able to reflect that in it's art as it gets further and further removed from being Christian.

Another proof of this is how often the top movies and the top songs change. True art can capture the imagination of people for a long time. We measure the life of our art in weeks. True art can be enjoyed for centuries. My son and I were listening to a reflection on St Francis de Sales' book The Introduction To The Devout Life. It is about 400 years old. How many 14 year-olds are exposed to anything 400 years old?

1 comment:

  1. Good points, Randy.

    I think another reason is that secular people largely control the curricula at art schools, colleges, etc. So as a Christian you get looked down upon for painting something sacred. This happened to a friend of mine who got an Art degree from (ironically) a private Christian-affiliated university.

    So you don't have great Christian artists training younger artists and encouraging them in their beautiful artwork.