Curt Comments On Art & Pop Culture

Art.  In the act of creation, whether it is music, theatre, film, painting, or writing, we are most like our Creator.  Even those who do not claim belief in God or follow the Bible have some part of a gift of God in them when they create.  Some of the best art comes about when talent and ability meets the Christian worldview, as then the artist understands the context and source of the artistic impulse.

Modern Christianity, especially that of the fundamentalist bent, has tended to take a rather poor view of art; in fact they are often afraid of it.  There are various reasons given, such as there is no purpose for the art (it doesn't serve a useful function) or it doesn't expound directly on God.  As Francis Schaeffer said, art doesn't need a purpose, it just is.  If art needed a purpose, why would God create a beautiful sunset, rainbow, or flower that quickly fades into oblivion.  In the same way, beauty is a reflection of the Creator, even if it doesn't name Him.

Some of this becomes problematic when we move to popular culture.  Not all pop culture has many elements of art, nor is it meant to.  It may not have any profound meaning or lasting influence.  But some modern film, music, etc. does have deeper meaning and beauty.  Whether it be in dialogue, cinematography, lyric, production design, or painting style, it is meant to convey a meaning as well as entertain.  You can learn a lot about the morals, ideals, and philosophy of a culture by looking at its art/pop culture.

There has been much written about this by people much more gifted and talented than I.  I get a lot of my views on art from the writings of Francis Schaeffer, who I encourage you to read if you are interested in this topic.

The whole point of this is, I find pop culture is a great way to understand a culture.  The way people are thinking and struggling, and what they are accepting can be seen in the movies, music, and literature of an era. I do a lot of reading.  Music has always had an influence on my life and I consider myself a film buff.  Due to the closedmindedness of many Christians, there are often constraints placed on Christians who are trying to create culturally-relevant art. Because of this, I often lack interest in music or film being done in the context of some type of Christian industry.

I don't feel that something always has to mention God or the Christian experience to be worth a listen or a viewing.  I don't even think it has to have happy, positive vibes. Have you ever read Ecclesiastes or the Psalms? Lot of dark stuff there.

Life is a mixture of many emotions, struggles, triumphs, and experiences.  As a Christian, I feel that God is interested in all aspects of my life.  And should be involved in all aspects.  That means that if a movie or song helps me understand myself or the human condition in a deeper way, it MAY be worth taking into my head.

There is a danger to this, especially if you do not have a good grounding in Biblical theology and Christian world view.  You need to know the truth to have discernment.  This is obviously an ongoing process and I haven't arrived yet.  But I do feel that I can generally tell how a particular film-maker or musician's worldview lines up with scripture.

This requires active listening (or watching or reading). Many people are not willing to do this. Some purely want to be entertained. That's okay, but not very satisfying for me personally.

Many Christians would rather be safe and not view anything that might be offensive.  I can respect this position, but you will often miss out on some of the most interesting art that is out there. And you may be surprised by how much truth you can take away from unlikely sources.

This is a difficult area. You don't want to dig through a garbage heap to find the filet mignon.  So you constantly have to decide where the line is for you.  This means talking to others, reading reviews of music or movies, etc.  I have watched movies and listened to songs where I honestly did not get much value out of the experience. It did not make me a better person. I certainly don't want to encourage anyone to involve themselves with anything that you find offensive. But this line is different depending on where you are in your walk with God.

Some of the books, music, and movies I recommend you may find questionable.  That's okay. But I thought it was important that I explain why I take a few more chances with art.  I feel it has helped to deepen my understanding of God and the human condition.