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We don’t need more Christian Music

As I write this, the world is buzzing with frantic anticipation for the arrival of music’s biggest night.

Somewhere, right now, Lady Gaga is being lowered into some kind of pre-civil war, steam punk inspired Transformers costume. Nicki Minaj is sifting through a Skittles bag, searching for the perfect wig color.

That’s right, the Grammy Awards are upon us. Millions of viewers will tune in to see which of their favorite artists will be awarded for their recent musical endeavors. They are looking forward to live performances from some of the world’s most talented individuals.

I am one of those viewers. For a long time I had no interest in the Grammy’s or popular music. It seemed like any pretty face with a gym membership and functioning vocal cords could get a record deal. Lately, there seems to be a resurgence underway, people shifting back to an appreciation for musicianship and strong lyricism.

Great bands like Mumford & Sons have gone from playing small festivals to packing out stadiums. This doesn’t make the hipsters happy, the ones who knew them before they were big, but I love it. I love music.

Having grown up in a religious context, I am well aware of the dividing line that splits many Christians between what we call “Christian” and “Secular” music. I have never done too well with this line, but I understand it. Much of the music that exists, regardless of genre, is pathetic. Degradation of women. Celebration of crime. Promotion of infidelity and promiscuity.

My parents didn’t want me singing along in celebration of these things, and I respect that. The solution? Listen to “Christian” music. It’s wholesome.

But while “Christian” music is void of sex and drugs and stickin’ it to the man, for me, much of it is void of originality, art, and honesty. There are exceptions, which I will cover later, but I have felt this way since childhood. Read More…

Christians and Bad Art

For many years, the Christian church has been the subject of artistic criticism. Theological, social, and political critiques aside, much has been said about the lack of creativity.

In the future, I plan to dedicate a whole week to this topic, affirming some of the criticism, as well as defending what I believe to be amazing art coming from the Christian community. For now I will focus on one thread.

The biggest charge against Christian artists has been that there is a lack of honesty in the work presented, that everything feels forced or contrived, too safe.

Honestly, I understand this argument, and agree in large part. Much of what you see when you walk into a Christian book store is not-so-clever remixes of popular culture.

Take these for instance:

Rosie the Riveter and Monster Energy drinks go to church. It’s novelty, and while it is by no means exclusive to Christian companies, this is the church’s prevalent offering to the marketplace.

This should not be. Read More…

No man is an island

Other than being locked inside of a bird sanctuary, I can think of no torture worse than solitary confinement. The thought of being in isolation is nightmarish.

It’s not that spending time alone is horrible. On occasion, we all need to step away from the noise to reflect in silence or read a good book. But even the act of reading is conversational, a kind of time travel dialogue between creator and consumer. The same could be said of music and film. Still, not even the transcendent power of the arts can replace the need for loving physical presence.

We are relational beings by nature. Nothing good ever comes from extended isolation.

Much of the violence, poverty and substance abuse in society can be traced, in part, to the absence of supportive parents and mentors. Obviously, there are several elements at play, but prisons are bursting with men and women with absentee fathers or mothers.

Clinics are busy treating grossly underweight individuals literally starving for a feeling of acceptance.

Transient men and women seek shelter in our streets unnoticed.

Many students walk through crowded halls feeling alone. Some look to death for solace.

It is not good for man to be alone. – God Read More…

The Creative Echo

The other day, I was discussing art with a few people, and my painter friend, Erik said something that resonated with me.

We were talking about the creative process, how people come up with the most amazing ideas, seemingly out thin air. He said something like,

Sometimes when I sit down to paint, looking at a white canvas is like staring into the infinite abyss. So many possibilities and I don’t know where to start.

It made me think about writing. So many nights I sit in front of my computer, staring at a white screen. Sometimes I come to the table feeling inspired, ready to flood the page with ideas. More often, I come empty-handed. I spend hours in silence as the blinking cursor taunts me from the top left corner of the screen. Write something. I’m just waiting for a spark.

A Genesis moment.

Suddenly, one word makes two, three, a sentence. Sentences become paragraphs, and so on. It’s remarkable, the creative process.

This is true of the arts, but really for all of life. Creativity is a part of the human construct, and we are all creators, in a way.

Like the artist with the blank canvas, the scientist works with the elements. Teachers create methods for delivering complex information. Business owners develop systems for greater efficiency. Parents not only participate in the creation of their children, they establish environments conducive to child growth and development.

Everywhere, all the time, culture is being created. It’s fascinating. Read More…

Deep Dark Blackness

I recently came across this video from artist/photographer Jeremy Cowart, shot during the creation of his piece, Deep Dark Blackness.

It’s a messy, fantastic portrayal of the darkness of sin and the “beauty of radical grace.” From an artistic standpoint it is remarkable.

The piece is thought-provoking by itself (You can purchase a print here), but you can’t fully appreciate it until you watch the creation process in this time-lapse clip.

To me, this is what [theo]culture is all about.

Check it out! I’d love to know what you think in the comments section below.

 

For more of his work, head to jeremycowart.com.

Don’t do this to Jesus.

When your friend posts a tweet with the caption, “A perfectly horrifying example of how not to restore a painting of Jesus,” you click the link.

That’s what I did anyways, and it took me to this story about an 80-year-old woman in Spain who, without being asked, or granted permission for that matter, set out to restore an aging painting of the Son of God that hung in her neighborhood church, a noble task.

But as our great American poet, Madonna once said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The result, as seen above, is less than spectacular.

She made Jesus look like the monkey from this Disney movie I saw when I was a kid…

Read More…

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