Credo #84: The Arts

Posted: August 22, 2009 in Credo

Back in ’88 – 12 years before the dawn of the new millennium, I was an attendee at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. To my amusement I observed a discussion panel wherein musicians DeGarmo and Key helped defend the notion — apparently still radical enough to require discussion, even then — that music with identifiably modern styling not only could be glorifying to God but that to ask this question was itself evidence of a kind of bias about, and against, the arts that has long plagued the Church. Sometimes these questions about the arts are bound up with other questions than “art” per se, complicating the question. For example, the Assemblies of God believes that this couple dancing are doing something that God forbids (as opposed to something that is merely unwise). Now, I do not identify their behavior in that video link as “Christian.” But neither am I going to ever, nor should you ever, identify such as thing as ‘evil”, or unwise. I think it might be wise for some passive Christian men to learn some dance steps, but that is outside the scope of this post.

Back in the day, it was shocking to some fine, upstanding Christian people when a man named C. S. Lewis wrote (gasp) some Christian novels. Really. It was an issue. Billy Sunday, whose influence is still felt in many church circles, railed about the popular theatre of his day but spoke highly of Shakespeare (yes, that Shakespeare…have you heard what goes on those plays?) I am aware of a denominational leader who spoke highly of the King James translation because the styling and cadences of this translation artistically elevated the reader. Whatever.

.. Recently we have heard Chuck Colson make some comments about Contemporary Christian music that I think are either poorly worded or poorly considered; but I also hasten to add that few have done more than this man to identify that the culture is an arena where Christians belong. Certainly there is Christian material that is better left on the shelf, as there always has been in centuries past. On a personal note, I like modern soft-rock adaptations of classical hymns. One good gift from my background was a hymnology that continues to anchor and bless me.

Bullet points:

– It is best, I think, to think of the arts as an extension of language in non-verbal ways.

– I do not say that the popular culture is harmless; nor uncorrupted; neither do I advise you to soak in the stuff. I advise you to be like Daniel the prophet, who as it so happened was an expert in literature and learning, and who walked with integrity before God. Which do you think came first?

– To use the arts to manipulate is problematic and can be sinful, such as when one sees repeated choruses designed to work a crowd into an emotionally frenzied state.

– Develop your artistic sensibilities if you are so inclined. Be open to the idea of having to leave your art, whatever it is, aside for seasons.

– Avoid the idiocy of thinking of the arts as “bad” because they speak to the emotions.

– Guard your emotions when “art” is speaking to them, and understand that the well centered Christian life is not threatened by this.

– Understand the difference between being emotionally moved and being moved in a deeper way, within your spirit; E.g. the fact that the worship music is beautiful is different than what the worship is About.

– Guard your eyes (or your ears) if that is what the situation and context calls for.

– The “Christian” label on a thing does not mean that the artist’s creation is either helpful or harmless. Or even good art.

Your not liking something does not mean your taste and sensibilities are less than Godly; and the same grace should be extended as well to those who might not like your idea of “art.”

– Slapping the label of “art” on a thing does not make it worthy of your time or pursuit; nor does it of necessity aid you in your walk.

– It should not need saying, but apparently we must also contemplate that not everyone is an artist; neither the one who is gifted nor the one who is not is any less His son.

– Art speaks.

– To reflexively believe that something is of the flesh or the devil because you have little knowledge of the thing is in error. Such behaviour, in fact, reflects poorly on your Lord and you. Likewise it is not “evil” because it is not “spiritual” enough or themed as “Christian’ – or not.

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