On First Things today, Peter Blair offers a plea to Christian artists out there to stop producing “Christian Art” and start making true art of real beauty if they want any hope of transforming our culture.
As I’ve been driving back and forth up and down the East Coast this summer, I’ve listened to may fair share of Christian music on the radio, and honestly, I’m confused by two things. 1) Why does it need to be called “Christian” music and 2) why “positive” or “encouraging” music a euphemism for the genre? And thus tonight I ramble on my confusion.
1) American culture is perhaps defined by its individualism- therefore, everyone can have a club for themselves, where their own subculture reigns supreme (I know, I know, we all know this). Yet, there is still some sort of “mainstream”- especially in the controlled markets of radio and cinema. So-called Christian music seems to mar both aspects of the Christian call to be in the world but not of it: instead of branching out to all persons and creating a catholic (small c) atmosphere that branches out to speak to all of society, it instead sings to those who are already “saved,” and instead of rejecting this American temptation to ghettoize and slant facts to fit one’s worldview instead of taking our fallen world as it is, and transform it by example- not just sticking to one’s own bright and positive bubble.
2) Ok, so since when has the Cross been “positive” and “uplifting” alone? What about the whole humility and penitence thing that comes along with Joy? Don’t get me wrong- are we called to rejoice? Of course! And is all Contemporary Christian Music all yippy-skippy all day every day?? Nope. And sure the Gospels and the Crucifixion and Resurrection are the most positive and glorious thing- indeed what redeems all that is sinful and base and all that! But come on: don’t make your celebration of those gifts so flat and boring and so gosh darn just BAD- at least if you want it to be enticing. The same can be said (and has been) about Christian movies such as Fireproof- and the marginally better Bella and There be Dragons.*
This ultimately may be why I’m Catholic and not Evangelical.
To be fair, our world could deal with a lot more positivity, a lot less sin, and an emphasis on truth and virtue. From personal experience, I can say that Christian music is pretty positive and peppy and at least isn’t an affront to morality. But it is an affront to good taste, and even one’s conscience if we’re willing to go out on a limb and claim beauty as a virtue as essential to the proper understanding of Truth.
*Yes, I went there. Eduardo Verastegui, eres guapisimo y tienes buenas intenciones. Pero Bella es demaciado “vanilla” y “preachy” para ser arte. Sorrrrry