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.