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The Discerning Art Consumer

That’s probably not me, though I like very much to think of myself this way. And, in a recent conversation about a popular TV show, I did say to my husband, “If TV is to be considered an art form, it must be held accountable to artistic standards.”

Whatever that means.

Well, you may be one of two types of people I tend to encounter in the Church. You’re a Christian, and you only want to view/listen/read Christian stuff, or You’re a Christian, and you only want to view/listen/read in a discerning way—but you’re always a little torn because you love “Seinfeld” and Jimi Hendrix.

My hope is that you’re in the latter category, and not the former—because it’s our responsibility to produce the best stuff, and I don’t think that happens in a vacuum or a bubble. There’s great stuff out there, but it requires active discernment and not passive absorption. God has gifted non-Christians with blow-your-mind talents! That’s amazing, right there. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

It’s just way too simplistic to dismiss the entire secular artworld as unworthy of our attention. But that’s another story.

This post is for those who really just want some good Christian stuff. I hear you, friend.Sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and breathe easy, and not worry about hearing or seeing a litany of perversity or porn or a tirade on why atheism is the way to go or something belittling to your deepest held beliefs. It can be exhausting, trying, and horrible on the parenting-front.

Well, I may mean something different than you when I say good Christian stuff. I pretty much gave up on Christian rock n’ roll around the time of Petra and Amy Grant’s 1985 album,Unguarded. After five whole minutes of trying to immerse myself in the Christian music scene (okay, so I didn’t give it much of a chance), I stepped out into the unholy world of secular rock n’ roll—and I haven’t returned since. I admit that this might’ve been my mistake. I admit that damage was done. Not the sex, drugs, rock n’ roll kind. Rather, something different—maybe a propensity towards cynicism? Philosophical gloom? At fourteen, I fell into a romantic love trap that seemed to make young womanhood sheer hell. The music helped.

But, hey, I say to you, with a grain of salt and a twinkle in my eye, there were benefits: Led Zep, the Stones, the Smiths, the Cure, Janis Joplin. Artistic merit?!?!

Where can artistic merit among Christians be had?

Caveat: I know it’s out there. I know I’m missing 98% of it.

But here are some Christian Christians, if you know what I mean, who might be worth your time. Like, your Art Time. These are artists who are Christians who function, largely, within the secular artistic community. They probably have their reasons why they choose the secular world as their arena—and I wouldn’t underestimate their reasoning. But their stuff is worth your time.

Literature:

James McBride! I love this guy. If you like nonfiction, try The Color of Water. If you like fiction, try The Good Lord Bird. In his nonfiction memoir, McBride tells about his black minister dad and his white Jewish-Christian mom. In his novel, he writes about a slave boy disguised as a girl and on the run with famous abolitionist John Brown. The thing about McBride (and Robinson—see below) is that he holds his own in the secular lit world. So often, when you encounter a Christian artist, there’s this sense that he or she is pretty good for a Christian. That is so not what we want for our artists! We want them to be excellent, held to high artistic standards (like I mentioned above when my husband and I were discussing that popular TV show, which was “The Walking Dead.”) Demand Art from Your Christian Artists. That’s my new mantra.

Marilynne Robinson! Well, she’s totally amazing because she’s a woman, a Christian (a Calvinist!), and a writer. She’s got this “trilogy” (I hate using that word because book series usually seem subpar and generic to me but, well, there are three books set in a fictional town in Iowa with recurring characters—so it’s a trilogy). The books are amazingly written. Writers and critics love her. She’s a writer’s writer, which means writers want to sit at her feet and learn from her. Plus, she makes no bones about her Christian faith. The books you might want to check out are as follows: Gilead, Home, Lila. There are others, but these three are amazing, and the winners of major secular literary accolades, including the Pulitzer.

Music:

Johnny Cash! Really, it’s up to you to look him. But, yeah, Johnny. Awesome.

U2! They saved my teenage years artistically, and this is no exaggeration. I will forever be thankful for the top-notch rock n’ roll of this band, who—say what you will—set out to make great rock n’ roll, and not second-rate or substitution Christian rock. And, now, as a mom, I like that my kids can listen and I really don’t need to worry that Bono is going to suggest an orgy or anything. I’m taking my kids to their first concert this May. Very exciting! It’s U2! Instead of putting a downpayment on a new house, we’re seeing U2!

David Eugene Edwards! Initially, the lead singer of Sixteen Horsepower, Edwards now fronts Wovenhand. I really don’t know who knows about him, or who his fanbase is, but I love his music for its authenticity and artistry. I remember my husband playing a song for me and saying something like, “You’ve never heard Christian rock like this before,” and it’s true. Here’s a song:“Strawfoot.” There’s a documentary available too. I think he’s a major talent.

Movies, TV, the Visual Arts: Help me out, folks. I’d welcome your recommendations. Fireproofwas sweet and cheesy, unlike life as I know it. A far cry from Art? I haven’t heard too many good things about God is Dead, except that it was embarrassing. Pulp Fiction is like a parable to me, but it doesn’t count. Fill me in. Send me your recommendations.

So let’s get going. Demand art from your Christian artists.

All People. All of Jesus.
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