Art Views · Her Views · On Being Christian

… and “christian” art

Monday’s post started a conversation about Art, which made me think of a couple of posts I wrote awhile back, attempting to define what Art is – and is not – for Christians. I posted the first yesterday. Here’s the second, originally titled “Is it Christian?” It was in reply to a blog post about the top 20 “overtly” Christian films. The original link is no longer available, but I’m confident you’ll get the idea.
First of all, it’s important to define what one means when designating something to be “Christian.” Let’s compare the rules of other art forms and see how it works.

Christian Books. 1. Books written by Christian authors. 2. Can be about any theme, problem or storyline, but provide “Christian” solutions. Usually with Bible verses. 3. Printed by Christian publishers. “Secular” writers do not write Christian books. (Duh.) That’s why books on the New York Times Best Seller List are not Christian. (With the exception of The Purpose Driven Life, which meets the criteria of numbers 1-3.) See how it all starts to fit?

Christian Music. 1. The songs are about God. 2. The music is usually distributed by a Christian label. 3. The singer/artist is a Christian. Songs by a “secular” artist that may seem to have a Christian theme can be categorized as such only when re-recorded by a Christian artist. This is understandable, because they need to be specific about whose money they’re targeting. Christian money, of course!

Christian “Art.” 1. Contains a Christian symbol: cross, dove, or fish. 2. Contains a Scripture verse. 3. Has John 3:16 hidden somewhere in it. 4. Is only created by a Christian artist, because no one else would even think to include numbers 1-3 in a work of art. 5. Sold in Christian bookstores, because, well…of numbers 1-4.

So. Back to the top twenty “Christian” movies. The only movies that truly qualify for that title are: 1. The Passion of the Christ – obviously, it’s about Jesus and the crucifixion. 2. The End of the Spear – a Christian story, based on a book by Christian authors. (Though it employed a reportedly gay actor, which made it questionable for many Christians.) 3. Chronicles of Narnia – a Christian allegory, based on a book by a Christian author. 4. Shadowlands – see #3.

Now. There are couple that could “kinda-maybe” make the Christian cut, but I think you’ll see how they really don’t fit. 1. Lord of the Rings – sure, there were themes of salvation, good/evil, sacrifice and redemption, but it also contained witchcraft, sorcery, and monsters. Clearly it doesn’t qualify. 2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose – being directed by a Christian helps, as does defending the Christian faith in court, but ultimately the movie is about demon possession, so no way.
Do you feel the utterly drab, monotonous convention portrayed above? There’s nothing inspiring or moving or even thought-provoking when you define Art this way. We were not created to live a monochromatic life in a world of high-definition, 3D color.

3 thoughts on “… and “christian” art

  1. As to Christian movies not made by people identified as Christians, Babette’s Feast is an absolute winner. The Mission and Chariots of Fire are also top-notch, though the latter is probably the most critically reviled Best Picture winner (and I don’t know why).

    Other standouts:

    Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (which was THE Jesus film for your generation and mine—Zeffirelli also did Brother Sun, Sister Moon about the life of St. Francis of Assisi)

    Luther with Joseph Fiennes as Luther

    Amazing Grace about the work of William Wilberforce

    A Man for All Seasons about Thomas More, won Best Picture

    And several excellent bio-pics about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer


  2. Thanks for helping me update the list, Dan! These are all excellent additions. I absolutely love Babette’s Feast… such an understated message of grace…


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