For most of history Christians created the best art in the world. So good and so renowned that even in secular circles the old Christian painters responsible for the sistine chapel and the paintings of the last supper are heralded as the great influential artists. So What happened? Why are the servants of the great creator now content to make horrible art in his name?
It’s hard to know exactly where to start in articulating why Christian art is so bad. I would begin with the fact that christian media is essentially a cheap knockoff of pop culture. Take for example old fashioned. This movie was the extremely obvious christian response to fifty shades of grey. What? never heard of it? Probably because the movie was complete crap. (I myself haven’t seen it so that probably wasn’t very fair of me) The basic synopsis of this movie was that a former frat boy named Clay meets a “restless spirit” named amber, who rents an apartment from him. He holds to extremely traditional no longer orthodox views about marriage and sexuality where he won’t even be in the apartment along with her to make repairs to her home. (He actually asks her to leave) Over time she becomes strangely drawn to his old fashioned gentleman personality. This movie was released around the same time as fifty shades and shares the premise of a romance story between a naive young woman and a man with unorthodox sexual practices. And while the idea of exploring chastity in a movie is actually not a bad a idea this particular film only exists to invalidate a secular film. Which pretty much defines the problem with christian media as a whole.
Contemporary Christian media is often created with the intent on evangelism where old Christian art was the primary means of communication. In the modern world a good analogy to use for christian media is the gift wrapping analogyf. If you think of the gospel as a gift under a tree and the use of media is the wrapping paper. It’s a decoration to draw your eye but of course is not as valuable as the gift itself. The problem is that wrapping paper gets thrown away when it’s use is up it isn’t made to last. Often I think well meaning Christians with the intent on “keeping God first” end up producing throw away quality to gift wrap the message in. Artistic value just isn’t as important to this group of “artists”. This creates movies set in unrealistic worlds where everything is wonderful especially if you are a Christian, lazily written songs with the same four chords in every song, and cliche art pieces that really are non compelling in any way.
I remember Christian artist Steve Taylor speaking at GC chapel my freshman year. His chapel sermon has actually been a significant part of why I am so critical of Christian art. During Chapel he showed two paintings. One was a picture of a little white church next to a river in the woods. The other was a famous Picasso painting showing the suffering caused by war. He then asked which we believe to be the most Christian. To me it was obvious that showing truth of life and death and suffering caused by mankind itself was a much more responsible Christian message to send. If we are to value truth then in our own medium we need to be able to show the real world as it is and be willing to push people’s buttons a little. There really isn’t room for both truth and “feel good faith” influenced art.
Sadly though Christian media is created for the christian market which is composed of people who don’t want painful truth or the harsh realities of life. They don’t want to hear the language that the real world uses or see the things the real world sees. They want the christianized sterilized version of secular pop culture. That’s why artists like Steve Taylor and Amy Grant got so much push back from the Christian media industry. Because they branched out created art outside the Christian bubble. In doing so they weren’t giving the Christian market what it wanted. They created what the secular world was creating. The sad thing is that these artists probably have the most evangelical potential but there aren’t enough of them because the industry doesn’t approve of them.
So where does this leave us as young Christian media producers. We are a new generation with new expectations. I have so much faith that the Christians of tomorrow won’t accept “feel good faith” anymore. I believe that we can pick up the torch and starting producing media and art that surpasses the secular world. And that artistry would once again be respected in the Christian media world. After all why would we create crap for king of the universe?