Awhile back I posted some thoughts about Christian art. Menachem Wecker on a blog called "Iconia" picked up on what I said and we had a little conversation here.
Well, tonight I was back on Menachem's blog and found this posted. Great thoughts!
Abigail Ellis Says
I’m an artist and an Evangelical Christian, and I have to say I don’t like the bulk of self-proclaimed Christian art and music. I’ve tried to like it, but still I have the same reaction. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why.(Btw, I agree with the definition that Christian art is any art that comes from a person of Christian faith, and does not have to be religious art, which is a different thing.)
Here’s my conclusion about why Christian art can sometimes be so dire:It’s too self-concious.
As an artist I find self-conciousness to be the deathknell of creativity, and the stymie of the process of making art. The best work I do is the most intensely private stuff that I do only for myself (and don’t want to show!). I’ve spoken to other artists, writers and musicians and so many have observed the same reaction in themselves.
Evangelicals, in my opinion are not always very good at being unselfconcious when it comes to their faith. Like most protestants (as compared to Roman Catholics, etc.), we are required to display our personal religious beliefs in public in order to be accepted in our religious communities. We are obligated by our communities to live up to moral standards and levels of evangelistic efforts in order to be accepted as trustworthy, despite what we believe in our hearts about being saved by Jesus alone. This is how a lot of Evangelical communities organise themselves: it’s just the way it works.
So it follows that a lot of self-proclaimed evangelical christian art has to be OK’d theologically for other people. Whatever standard get’s applied (like you said, is it OK just to mention Jesus, or does it have to have a call to faith in it?) that’s self-censure. It’s self-concious by nature, and it’s exactly what gets in the way of making art.
If I’m looking for my art to be accepted in the Evangelical community I have to worry about all the criteria I have to live up to. Not only does my art have to be about good things, which show praise to God with dignity, they have to be respectably presented, and conform to basic modesty. I also have to lead a pure life (at least post-conversion), where any sign of personal struggles and failings are non-admissable.So what’s left to tell? If my art comes from my heart unself-conciouly, it’s going to be filled with uglyness and shame, but also truth. This isn’t respectable, and many people in the Evangelical scene won’t accept this. Art that talks about suicidal thoughts from a Christian perspective isn’t always Kosher.
BUT my faith tells me that the truth, though ugly, is clean and purifying, and that God is in the business of turning brokeness and imperfect lives into even more beautiful things. Why shouldn’t my art reflect this too?!I think the problem is that a lot of Evangelicals are afraid of the ugliness and messiness of the truth of their own lives. So they try to conform their lives (and art) to what they think it _should_ be. That’s self-concousness.But this isn’t new: it was something John Wesley wrangled with, and this way of doubting has been passed on in Evangelical churches as a legacy.
The reason much of Christian art is unispiring, is that there’s a theological issue playing out into the ethics of how we treat ourselves, each other and our art, which makes us self-concious and ashamed of ourselves. That makes for bad art.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
One of my good friends asked me recently, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, why I was calling homosexuals "the enemy." I've tried really hard to figure out how to write this post without doing that. I don't believe that the gay community is my enemy, or the enemy of the church or of morality or whatever. As we discussed last time, it's not that simple. There are enemies of good in every community, inside and outside the organized church and the organized homosexual community. Evil is real. "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you..." said God to Cain in Genesis 4.7 (NIV). Evil is in the world. And wherever it is, it can only be overcome with good.
We have been saying that love involves at least 3 things: relationship, service, and sacrifice. Today I want to write a little about service. Let's start back with the words of Jesus that originally launched this discussion:
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6.27-31 (NIV)
Our culture demands getting even. But Jesus radically says that getting even cannot be the Way of the Jesus-follower. The Way involves serving even those who mistreat you. When someone hits you, physically or emotionally or whatever, don't hit back and get even. Offer another opportunity to display the radical love of Christ. [I'm not here talking about relationships of abuse--that's not what Jesus was talking about either. He's talking about those who are treated poorly because they do good.]
So, those who follow the Way of Jesus need to figure out how they can serve the homosexual community in the name of Christ. And it should be radical. It will be criticized by those who believe the stance of morality is to try and use every means possible to stamp out or marginalize sin. Evil can only be overcome with radical good, which means acts of service.
How do we do this? Well, it starts again with relationship. We need to be with gay and lesbian people and build relationships with them and love them. What kinds of acts of service should we do? First, we should do the things we do for anyone we have a relationship with. Invite them over for dinner, give them gifts on their birthday, include them to family activities. Don't shun, don't ostracize, don't ignore. If you get called names, respond with love and service, not anger and hatred.
Second, as a community of followers of the Way of Jesus, we need to serve the gay community when it is mistreated. If a person is beaten up or mistreated because they are gay, it should be Christ-followers who are first to point out this evil. We should be involved in promoting laws that protect all those among us, regardless of what we think about their lifestyles. We should carefully consider how we can promote the liberty of all, not excusing evil in any form.
Only good will overcome evil. Only service to others displays true love. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
May my life be a river of service to the world.
As I (finally) started working on the next blog post on loving your enemies, I just wanted to say "thanks" to those of you who still read and respond to what I write. With the weeks in between posts, it's a wonder that I'm not the only one reading!