I\’ve been imbibing “Imagine : A Vision for Christians in the Arts”. I’m humbled. Convicted. Invigorated. That which I felt, but could not vocalize, is solaced in this book. The other week 60 Minutes had a story on Christian music and its “mainstream” cross over success. In it they focused on a few bands that were considered “Christian” (Switchfoot, P.O.D., Kayne West, etc) and their success apart from specific “Christian” marketing, contrasted with Third Day who is (so far) associated only with “Christian” music.
The twist was, that is successful Christian band, Third Day, was going to bring their message to the \”mainstream\” – a coming out of the closet if you will. For quite awhile this churned inside. I felt ill when I heard them say this. Not for the fact that they were considered turning “secular”, but for the fact that they thought they were good enough to make a dent in any “mainstream”, “secular” world with their musical abilities. I thought, “We’re sending them as ambassadors? Ugh, they suck!”.
In my gut I felt ashamed, as a Christian, as an artist, as a musician, to have a band whose talent to craft songs and write lyrics where nothing more than predictable and mediocre to shoulder the burden of “secular” scrutiny. This is the utmost of our artistic abilities for Christ? Predictable. Mediocre. Trite. Frivolous. Vapid. Surface.
Artists who happen to be Christian, are squeezed in the vice. Either you are thrown to the wolves who think Christians are void of substance and culturally relevant messages, or left lingering in a dark corner amongst the church who fears and avoids valid artistic expression – if art doesn’t have something containing Jesus Loves You, You are Sinners, Be Saved messages, it’s secular, worldly and thus in the grip of the devil.
So our great extension to the artistic expression of music (by “our”, I mean Christians) is to send out a band that has been perched high in fame by preaching to the choir. Who will listen? Will they be able to reach out beyond the comfort of likemindedness and into their hearts and experiences to speak a truth that resonates and also reverberates with a deeper substance (that of redemption, faith, grace, salvation ) without simply propagandizing it?
What do we have to offer that is equal or greater than the best that is out there? What are we saying that is deeper (less obvious) than opening the Bible and quoting a verse? Where is the human condition – pain, sin, error, searching, questioning, exploring? What good does it to someone who is either angry, afraid, hurt or ambivalent toward Christianity, God, the Bible to speak a language they do not like, understand, want to identify with?
I’ve heard and seen Christian artists who astound me – yet they are unheralded amongst their own (if they even wish to claim them as their own). We are ashamed of creativity, for no other reason that it challenges us past what we’re comfortable with (reading or hearing or seeing). The truth of salvation, when living in us, resonates no matter the medium.