Artistic Bankruptcy of Next Generation Christians.

According to a spate of articles, the next generation of Christian students is ready to engage culture by making movies! This according to articles this week in the NYT Sunday Magazine and the Pasadena Star News.

In our breathless enthusiasm for penetrating the “influential popular culture that has “sublimated” the influence of the church, we should note some cautionary truths.

First, so long as our interest in popular culture is primarily missiological, the desire to learn the culture to reach it and “influence” it, we are not likely to make good art.

Second, so long as our artistic efforts are uncritical imitations of popular culture, they will also fail the artistic standard because today’s popular culture manifests its fallen-ness in junk passing as art.

Third, popular culture’s sublimation of the churches influence should be addressed ecclesiologically, namely by calling the church to repentance and reformation, not through abandoning the church for the open fields of “general revelation’ available to us in popular culture.

Cultural influence will be ours if we become a church that produces disciples capable of enriching culture. This requires a next generation of Christians who go deeper in faith and THEN deeper in culture.

Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman observes that our current artistic problems grow out of our improper artistic motivations, “Art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days, the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans: eternal values, immortality and masterpiece were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished vulnerable and natural humility.”

CS Lewis warned of the danger of disconnecting aesthetic sensibilities and deep faith, “If you attempted, in either case, to suspend your whole intellectual and aesthetic activity, you would only succeed in substituting a worse cultural life for a better. You are not, in fact, going to read nothing, either in the church or in the line: if you don’t read good books, you will read bad ones. If you don’t go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally. If you reject aesthetic satisfactions, you will fall into sensual satisfactions.”

My concern for this next generation is that their passion for film AND their aesthetic is often shaped more by their fallen culture than by their faith. If this is true, they have little to say, are improperly motivated to say what they do AND they are incapable of saying it with artistic excellence.

Our calling as mentors is to set a higher standard and to lead this generation deeper into their faith as a prerequisite of helping them go deeper in culture. The latter without the former is folly and will result in their certain demise, like Australian soldiers mowed down row by row at Gallipoli they will perish in the killing fields of popular culture.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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