How do we judge our art?

I have a few minutes before my friends come over and we set out to see 400,000 Christmas lights. I'm excited about that. AND, a dear lady at church today handed me a book of sELF-Help quotations by Buddy the Elf (from the esteemed holiday classic, ELF). That excites me as well.

Here's just a sample of the Buddy wisdom:
"If you see gum on the street, leave it there. It's not free candy." and "Singing is just like talking, only louder and longer and you move it up and down."

Good clean fun.

But that all doesn't fit with my title, so I will attempt to take a few moments to address the real issue.

The latest movie in the target sites of conservative Christians is "The Golden Compass." I was just invited to a Facebook group "Do not support The Golden Compass." There are almost 140,000 members. I have more questions than answers about this topic, but I will at least throw them out there.

How do we judge our art/media/music?

The issue at hand with this particular movie is the intent of the author of the books on which the movie is based. He is an avowed Atheist, who reportedly has blatantly stated that his books are about "killing God." As this little blog is a quick reaction, I haven't sufficiently researched that claim, but I have heard as much through various outlets, so let's say for the sake of argument that this is a true report of his intent. A friend of mine who has read the books and is a Christian says they are gloriously well-written, but do get progressively darker and more Anti-God/church as the story-line continues.

But do we judge all of our art on the artist's intent? Do I research the full beliefs and lives and fruit of every music producer, television writer (on the picket line these days), singer, and visual artist I support? I'd say many Christians would be shocked at the lives that "quote Christian artists/musicians" lead. We assume because they sing about God that they live in some sort of bubble with no temptation or sin. We take in and expose ourselves to art EVERY DAY that may or may not meet the impossible standards of matching up with our own moral/religious/Godly standards. So, you say that you will not support the movie because you would not like to support this artist. And yet you support artists whose lives are a wreck (by your standards) every time you watch television, stare at a piece of art at the doctor's office, purchase a picture at Target, buy a calendar full of cute doggie photographs, or many more high-brow forms of art. What does it mean to "support?" Is it with money...or is my time just as valuable in a spiritual sense? Do I support with my mind? What about lip service and anti-"insert item here" facebook groups? Don't those things draw attention?

Certainly, we should all be circumspect about what images and ideas we take in, but as discerning adults, I don't think we'll be easily swayed by ideas that run counter to what we hold dear. Certainly, too, we should monitor what children take in (duh!). But seriously, any fellow "conservative Christians" should use the same standards to judge everything, and not just jump on the "we don't like this..." wagon every time one comes along. The Holy Spirit can guide you to support, watch, purchase, and listen to quality works of art. And each person has something different s/he should avoid. I, for instance, can't watch violent movies...even movies like Braveheart and Gladiator, however redeeming the storylines...are bothersome for my mind. Someone else might have a different trigger. We need to learn our triggers, and protect our minds and souls.

I'm not telling anyone to see or not to see a movie. I'm just saying use your brain and listen to the still, small voice when you judge your art. Apply your standards across the board, and not just when "they" tell you to. Do your own research. Be a thinking Christian. And sometimes realize that you believe what you believe because it has been challenged and found true. Challenge is not evil. Challenge brings strength.


Sheila said...

Interesting thoughts. :o)

In what I've read about the movie though, his purpose in writing the books and making the movies is to "kill God in the minds of children" (that's a quote from the author)... that is a pretty serious purpose for movies geared towards children and young adults. Do you really think that is the same as buying a painting of an artist who is simply not a Christian?

Just thinking about what you said... I've never thought about it quite like that before. Thanks for being so thought provoking!

Shelley said...

Yes, of course it is more impactful to watch a movie than to gaze at a static piece of art. But does the artist's implicit statement make his intent any more evil than someone who doesn't implicitly state his/her intent? Any movie with pre-marital sex, gratuitous violence, gossip, and a much longer list of sins ultimately hurts the heart of God and numbs us to that reality. So, this author stated it out loud. So many other artists state it with what they produce. And I'm not even saying that we all boycott everything. I'm saying watch and be discerning about what you allow your mind to take in.