Create Culture

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Create Culture

In an episode of “King of the Hill,” Hank’s son Bobby joins a Christian rock band, his dad weighs in with this critique. “Can’t you see, you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock ¢â‚¬Ëœn’ roll worse?”

The comment reminds me of Frankie Schaeffer’s scathing critique of evangelicals & art delivered a few years ago in his book descriptively titled, “Addicted to Mediocrity.”

One could argue that the evangelical entertainment sub-culture has improved since then, but one could not argue that it is qualitatively superior to the art
produced by the broader culture, and most would agree that it is generally derivative and imitative of American pop culture.

This is a problem, because for centuries Christians were known for their intellectual, artistic and spiritual contributions to society.

T.S. Eliot once said, “No culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion: according to the point of view of the observer, the culture will appear to be the product of the religion, or the religion the product of the culture.”

If we agree that we ought to create the culture not be a creation of it, how can we rekindle a renaissance of Christian contributions to culture?

1. Aspire to produce artists who are deeply talented & Christian, not Christian artists. C. S. Lewis famously quipped that we don’t need Christian writers, we need great writers who are Christian.

2. Produce good art, not just religious art. Christian artists are not limited to creating “religious art, our exploration of everyday human occurrences can be gilded by our faith walk.

3. Strive for the spiritual, intelligent, and inventive. Art flowing from a gifted artist of deep faith should minimally reflect the spiritual, intelligent, creative image of God. Artist Mako Fujimura observes, “I believe that true, Christ-filled expression results in more diversity than what Christ-suppressing expression would allow. The more we center ourselves in Christ, the freer we are to explore new arenas of expression.”

4. Lead, don’t follow. If today’s art is spiritually, intellectually, and creatively bankrupt, why would we aspire to meet its standard? To lead artistically takes courage and requires contributing to new directions in your artistic medium, to expand the parameters, to innovate in form and style.

5. Play “real good,” for free, if need be.
Find the line between responsibility and selling out, and don’t cross it.
It takes courage to be an artist of integrity in a dumbed-down, superficial, commercially driven pop faith, pop culture age–but we’ve got to do it.

6. Make art, don’t just appropriate art. In its quest for relevance, Christians often use movie and song clips to build bridges of communication to the broader culture. This is OK, but it is vastly inferior to making brilliant original art.

7. Demand better art. Too many people who profess to know the living God are lemming-like consumers of the impoverished offerings of today’s bankrupt culture. If we eat a steady diet of drivel, the culture will keep making and serving it and so will the Christian sub-culture.

Michelangelo, when asked to be critical of the art of his day quipped, “My art is my critique!”

The best remedy for the spiritually, intellectually and creatively insipid art produced by today’s culture is to produce superior work–

It’s time to create a richer culture!

(The art posted today is by artist Mako Fujimura, who is also a Christian and leads the International Arts Movement).

Two practical suggestions. Register for the International Arts Movement
conference February 2008 in NYC. Also subscribe to IMAGE Journal

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).

PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    Posted in Staublog in October 9, 2007 by | No Comments »

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