Over at the blog of the journal Image, there’s an excellent post about what’s wrong with “Christian art,” and, more specifically, “Christian writers,” by Tony Woodlief. Here’s an excerpt:
In short, if Christian novels and movies and blogs and speeches must be stripped of profanity and sensuality and critical questions, all for the sake of sparing us scandal, then we have to wonder what has happened that such a wide swath of Christendom has failed to graduate from milk to meat.
This excerpt comes toward the end of what is, on the whole, an excellent and insightful look at what many people refer to as “Christian writing.” Woodlief begins by reflecting on a review of the recently released film “Soul Surfer,” which is directed, he notes, at evangelical audiences. He posits that, “bad art derives, like bad literary theory, from bad theology,” and then goes on to show how this is true.
The part quoted above immediately brought to mind something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately when it comes to the kinds of things that evangelicals deem acceptable forms of culture. It never occurred to me when I was a child, but looking back it seems strange that Christian adults I knew were attempting to hold themselves to the same standards that they maintained for their children. That is, I knew a lot of parents who didn’t watch rated R movies, listen to secular music, read anything other than church-approved literature, or even drink the occasional glass of wine. In short, they were treating themselves like children.
I’m not saying there is anything inherently good about doing any of those things mentioned in the previous paragraph, but, especially as it relates to art and literature, it does actually seem harmful to resist the not-so-pretty parts of life in the name of “purity.” Certainly, children must be protected and allowed to believe, for as long as possible, that much of the world is black and white, good and evil. But, at a certain point, it becomes unhealthy to continue living in such a manner. At some point, we all must grow up.
Woodlief’s point, that “a wide swath of Christendom has failed to graduate from milk to meat,” rings a resonant note with my experience. And that worries me.
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is editor of Patrol and author of Not Your Mother's Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. Follow Fitz on Twitter.
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