Make Disciples Who Make Good Art.

CWJustin Rima.jpg
I never met Justin Rima (foto right) but I know we need more Culturally Savvy Christians like him. This remarkable young man died when he was only 18, but his creative force had already produced a short film entitled “The Revenant,” which was selected as one of the winners of the 2003 Seattle International Film Festival, in the short film category.

Christians have tended to react to culture inappropriately. We have withdrawn into a protective, sheltered cocoon, we’ve done combat with culture and we’ve often conformed. Justin avoided these traps, choosing instead to express his artistic abilities to help “create culture. This is what we should expect from individuals created in the image of an infinitely creative God. We need more Christian artists like Justin and we need them now.

The Passion of Christ revealed that the Arts are a huge blind spot for most evangelicals. No wonder Joseph Fiennes is reacting negatively to a local churches purchase of a historic Notting Hill theatre with the express purpose of “redeeming the arts” through Christian discipleship. Regardless of what they mean, he believes they will discontinue showing first-rate films and will begin showing religious schlock. Unfortunately he can cite plenty of examples of tone-deaf, art-blind, censorious Christians who intend to “redeem the arts.”

I happen to believe true disciples should take their place in the arts, but as a creative force like Justin, not by “hostile takeovers” of theatres or the censoring of the films shown in them.

Today Tony Mauro makes the case that allowing Howard Stern’s raunch is better than silencing him. I don’t agree with some of the basic elements of his argument, but I do think Christians should focus less on regulating culture and more on countering culture with well-crafted, appealing alternatives. Gimmicks like a 3-D church don’t count.

When we head down the regulatory path we invite comparisons to Islamic theocracies like Iran. It is ludicrous for Nicholaus Kristof to suggest that President Bush’s personal religious beliefs as a guiding force in his political life are analogous to the Iranian Ayattolah’s, but people do fear the legalistic and moralistic impulses of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. It was not that long ago that they mounted fierce boycotts of “Life of Brian” (now re-released) and “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

Our path to cultural influence is through thoughtful, creative involvement in the arts. God wants to redeem individuals not the arts, and some of those individuals will be gifted to make good art for His glory and for our enjoyment and edification. I never met Justin Rima but I know we need more Culturally Savvy Christians like him.

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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