Thursday, September 04, 2008

Christian art?

My friend Whitney posted some very profound thoughts on a post of hers recently. It's all about not how there really is no such thing as "Christian" and "secular" art. Check it out.
When people would come to C.S. Lewis and say “oh you wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, you’re a ‘Christian artist’ how wonderful, how did you do it?” He would say that some people thought that he began by asking himself “How could I say something about Christianity to children”, and then he fixed on fairy tails as an instrument to do it. Then he collected info about child psychology and which age group he’d write for. They thought that he then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out symbols to embody them. “What moonshine, I couldn’t write like that.” And then he says do not ask what do children or readers want or even what do they need. It’s better not to ask those questions at all. He says NEVER start with a moral and then try to come up with a story. Rather, let the images and stories that come into your mind and move you, tell you their own moral. “For the moral inherent in them will rise from whatever spiritual roots you have succeeded in striking during the whole course of your life”

What pearls. He’s saying, "don’t you dare gather up some Christian truths, and then come up with stories or art to get them across” That would be bad art. It would be sanctimonious and pedantic, as TK would say. He is wanting us to ask ourselves “Have I worked every single aspect of the gospel down into the roots of my life, has every feature of the gospel story sunk so deep into the roots of my life that the images that come to me, that move me, simply bubble up out of that?”


  1. This reminds me of a talk Louie Giglio once gave to a private group about preaching. (Side note: Louie's one of the few people who can give a talk on how to preach, and you walk away feeling convicted ;-)).

    One of his main points was that the message is your life. You take a truth, and you do whatever you can to get it into your life, and when it distills down through you, whatever drops come out the bottom - that's the message. I can totally see this in his preaching. (Dunno if I described this well.)

  2. David, It's interesting to think about this as related to "christian" music too. I have to confess, that so much of the time when i'm listening to certain "christian" music there is just something about it that feels a little manufactured, a little like truths were "gathered up" to make a song...and, incidentally, makes my stomach turn a smidge. i wonder, when Christian radio stations are sitting down and trying to decide what music is acceptable to play on their frequency, what exactly are the qualifications for a song to be considered "Christian?" i think i once heard a musician sarcastically comment that a song must have a certain "JPM" (Jesus per minute)to be considered. As much as that sort of makes me chuckle, it really does kind of expose the shallowness of some of the things crossing our ears these days. Mind you, not that all "christian" music is shallow--certainly not! But i do wonder if the standards we used to qualify (and create!) this sort of thing were different then our experience with music would not also be a little richer, a little more authentic...

  3. Lindsey
    Great thoughts. I totally agree that most "Christian" music, especially these days is manufactured. There's such a market for 104.7 style music that many record companies are getting together artists, Christian or not, to make these cheesy stuff becuase they know a ton of people will buy it. I think there is a difference between "worship" music like Passion or Hillsong that is specifically made to engage the heart for God by singing Biblical truths. But outside of that there's good music and bad music. Good thoughtful lyrics and bad unthoughful lyrics.