Good Art, Bad Art

I remember going to chapel when I was a bright eyed little freshman.  One chapel in particular stands out from all other chapels even to this day, and it featured Steve Taylor as the speaker.  I hadn’t thought much about Christian art before then, but from that day on I’ve formed a strong opinion on the subject.

Steve Taylor

During his chapel Steve showed a slide with two pictures, I don’t remember what the first one was, maybe a gruesome painting of a battlefield. Next to that picture he showed a nice painting of a peaceful church next to a stream at sunset.  He asked us which we thought did more to glorify God.  Most of us probably assumed that the painting of the church.  Steve went on to talk about how the painting of the church was a lie.  There was no path leading to the church, there were lights on with no visible power lines leading to it, etc.  It wasn’t that it was a bad painting or anything, but it was impossibly nice.  He argued that the battlefield, though maybe not the most pleasant, was at least honest.  He concluded that the battlefield did more to glorify God because it shows truth, and all truth is God’s truth.

Thomas Kinkade’s Streams of Living Water shown during Steve Taylor’s chapel.

As a Sophomore I heard a similar argument made by Travis Briles in survey of audio engineering.  Travis argued that there is good art, bad art, good Christian art, and bad Christian art.  The two categories that glorified God most, were the good art and good Christian art.  He argued that usually things would fall into those two categories if the work was honest and told truth.

I personally agree with this philosophy, but would apply it to all mediums of art such as music, film, and painting.  I would argue the thing that makes the majority of Christian art bad in the first place is that it tries to lie, if not by omission, than blatantly.  Most of it wants to hide struggles, such as times of doubt, though it’s okay to struggle with it.  I was once heard that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, the opposite of faith was certainty.  To skim past that, or to hide it completely doesn’t do God much justice.

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*Fire Fall Down – Chris Tomlin – Live at Passion 07*

I saw a joke that to write a successful worship song you had to mention something on fire, and while searching for stereotypical worship music I started with fire.  The video above is what I found.  While it might be a nice song, I think it’d do less to glorify God than say rap music.  Warning the following hyperlinks lead to explicit material.  I know that warning got your attention, how can something explicit do more to glorify God than worship music?  Well in my mind, granted I could be very wrong, Hopsin’s Ill Mind of Hopsin 7 (EXPLICIT WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK!) does more to glorify God in this rap about doubt in his faith.  Even though he concludes that he’s no longer a Christian, he makes points throughout that we’ve probably all struggled with at some point or another.  He grapples with things that no Christian could avoid grappling with themselves, and though he lost, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to lose.  I think it’s a good exercise in growing to face these challenges.

Without going in to too much detail, I think the major problem with Christian art becomes alienated.  What good does it do if it only appeals to people who are already Christians?  I think some of the best Christian films would be hard to pick out from just a regular film, maybe that’s the way it should be.  Instead of stories about perfect people who don’t exist, we should tell stories about people who despite numerous mistakes redeem themselves.  Or characters that really struggle, and at the end are still struggling.  I’d like to see Christian films that don’t wrap up nicely, that tell the truth.  I want to see a world where a Christian film isn’t much different from a regular film, and that takes critical evaluation to find Christian values and themes in normal characters.  Where is there conflict if everyone is perfect?

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