Sunday, October 10, 2010

Artsitic Double Standards?


I watched a documentary last night on Danielson, one of the most unique musicians/ groups ever.  It made me think again about double standards in the artistic community.

In the film, Daniel was being interviewed and said something like  this:
'I don't like it when critics say things like "I don't agree with this but..." ' (then the interviewer asks what he means and Daniel explains). 'Its like they have to let people know they don't believe in Jesus, but they're still going to review my music.  You don't hear them say things like "I don't agree with Rastafarian beliefs, but here's my review of this reggae album." '

In the artistic community it seems you can be Buddhist (Beastie Boys), Jewish (Matisyahu), or Muslim (Jurassic 5 and lots of other rappers), yet not be judged solely by one of those labels.   But if you are a Christian who makes music, films, paintings, whatever, people want to always attach the label of 'Christian' to you.  That in itself is fine.  But it seems that 'Christian' can't be reconciled with 'artistic' in many people's minds.

This stems from several sources.  One source is a hard one for Christians to accept: a lot of current 'Christian' art (books, visual arts, music, films, etc.) are substandard and low quality.  I don't mean production quality or anything like that.  The art itself often isn't very good and doesn't stand up against art made by non-Christians.  Christian films for example are notoriously bad.  And Christian music has tended to be cheesy and overly preachy.

Why have Christians accepted substandard artistic creations?  Possibly due to lack of funding.  Or maybe due to a lack of support by the Christian community.  But I think those are lame excuses.  In general it seems that Christians in the modern era have not been challenged to think of music, books and films in regards to their artistic quality.  To most Christians, if the Good News is shared (which I am all in favor of), that makes it 'good' regardless of quality.  So whether the actors are robotic or the songs repeat the same three chords or the books read like pulp fiction novels seems to not matter.  I actually shy away from most 'Christian' media for this reason.

Seeing this attitude among many Christians and knowing that they may not expect high quality artistic output from other Christians, is it any surprise then that all Christian artists get lumped in with all the other substandard art made by well meaning Christians?

Music reviewers are surprised when a Christian makes something interesting, thoughtful or good.  So Christians have a double hurdle to jump - first making their art and making it good, and secondly having their work judged more harshly because they are Christians. But of all people in the world, shouldn't we, professed children of the Creator, be creative people?  And shouldn't we strive for creative excellence that we might have people look at our creations and say, "It is good!"

Thankfully there are Christian artists that have gained respect for their art and for the realistic portrayal of their beliefs.  Danielson, Sufjan Stevens, Scott Derrickson, Stephen R. Lawhhead and others.  And thankfully, many critics have realized that 'Christian' need not always be synonymous with 'substandard artistic expression.'

And since we're talking about Danielson, here's the video for "Did I Step on Your Trumpet"

1 comment:

patrick said...

Very well put. I couldn't have said it better myself.