If you’ve been around Evangelical or Pentecostal churches for a while, you may already be a victim of one of the greatest horrors of the modern age … “Christian” Art.
Dun, dun, dun!
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic. It’s true that I can think of quite a few modern horrors that outrank “Christian” Art, but few seem to be passed over so often and without a second thought. It’s hiding in plain sight!
In all seriousness though, we have a problem. Somewhere along the line, a group of Christians decided that regular art was no longer doing the job, and that what the world needed was “Christian” art. In the process, they left behind a trail of badly produced movies, third-tier boy bands, cut-rate poetry, and a whole lot of pictures of Jesus wearing mom jeans. How did something so right as putting “Christian” in front of “Art” go so wrong?
Well, maybe from the beginning.
Maybe Art and God were already on a first name basis. Maybe Jesus and Beauty don’t need an adjective to connect them.
In one section of Exodus, God decided God needed a portable palace, a place to live among God’s people. Thing was, God had pretty sophisticated tastes. This is what Exodus 31:1-5 says,
“The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.”
God said God filled Bezazel with God’s Spirit! Why? To cast out devils? To heal the sick? To win a battle? To get the high score on Donkey Kong?
None of that (though the last one would be pretty awesome).
God filled him so that he could create beautiful works of art. Sure, God could have lived in any old tent. God could have just said, “Meh, throw some paint on it and call it a day.” But God didn’t because beauty matters to God, because the experience of beauty is part of how God wants people to know God. In other words, God doesn’t tolerate bad art; God’s Spirit doesn’t make kitsch.
We don’t need an extra adjective to designate art as “Christian” because beauty belongs to God. Exodus 31 didn’t tell us that everyone started referring to Bezazel as a “Yahweh” artist. It just says he made beautiful stuff. Adding an extra adjective would be pointless because Exodus knows what we often forget: any truly good art is evidence of God’s Spirit at work in the world.
Perhaps André Gilde, French novelist and Nobel Prize winner said it best, “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.”
Beauty, no matter who makes it, is a glimpse of God’s creative person shining into the world.
So, next time we hear about that awesome new “Christian” movie or that sick new musician who is “also a Christian”, maybe we can pump the breaks.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of Christian sub-culture, let’s watch, read, listen, and feel the kind of truth and beauty that art brings into our lives. Because to tell the truth, I’ve seen a bit too much “Christian” art that the Spirit of Beauty had nothing to do with.
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