I’ve been thinking lately about why a lot of Christian art seems to be, well, not as good as a lot of secular art. Have you seen the Christian movies out there? Christian radio and music is so void of innovation. And Christian books are so, could we say, neutered sometimes.
There are probably lots of complex reasons why Christian culture has not fostered the environment that would challenge the arts to meet such high standards as the cut-throat secular market does, but I think I’ve found an interesting distinction that might help us Christians do art to the peak of our ability as well.
It is this. Christian art doesn’t ALL have to be “family friendly”. There is a place for kid-friendly art, but that would mostly be where kids are.
I feel like a lot of Christian movies avoid scary things, and bad words and Christian music stays pretty safe. This means kids can watch the movies and listen to that music but this is at the expense of addressing deep, difficult, real adult struggles. And because of that, we have avoided the deep, real, gritty stories of redeemed life.
It’s hard because much of the Christian culture promotes this safe mindset. I heard recently that if you write a book and it has the words “damn” or “hell” in it, a bunch of the Christian book stores won’t even sell them.
I heard a highly experienced agent talk about two people who had beautiful, redemptive stories. One of them had been a stripper, and the other was a reformed sex addict but he could not sell either of their books to Christian publishers because the stories, despite being beautifully redemptive, were too dirty. And this guy has sold like 700 books to publishers so he knows how to do it!
If anyone should have the market on surviving the most difficult, heart-felt, heart wrenching episodes in life, and can find beauty in them, it should be our God and his followers. Think of the loneliness and pain Jesus went through during his time on earth. Think of the martyrs that have been burned at the stake for their passion of generosity. Think of the true innovators, who, despite their brilliant minds to pursue God’s truths in science, were excommunicated and burned. What about the Christians that, when the black plague was raking through Europe, instead of running they went right into the heart of it to nurse the wounded and comfort the dying. All this at the risk of their own lives. That definitely wasn’t rated G.
So, I would like to encourage myself and you, the next time we’re creating something from a Christian perspective, let’s remember that it doesn’t have to be kid friendly, unless we’re making it for kids. There are very real themes that parents don’t expose kids to until they are older. But that doesn’t mean our art, and creativity, and writing have to stay 5 years old either.
If we do this, we may never get to see our names in the shelves at Christian book stores, but luckily in the world of social media and self publishing, if there is someone out there who needs to hear your story or your music, or see your movie, there is a way to get it to them.
And God can help us make this happen. So let’s try our best to make the deepest, richest, most honest and heart-felt art so we can touch people in the deepest part of the human condition and set in that place little pieces of Christ.