The Christian, the Culture and the Arts

Barb Wire

“Christians must go beyond criticizing the degradation of American culture, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on positive solutions. The only way to drive out bad culture is with good culture.”

– Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth and Saving Leonardo

I’m a supporter of Christian art with an edge; the type of art that rises above a generic malaise without sacrificing reverential orthodoxy. Considering our cold dark world, I believe Christian art leaves room for tragic and dark elements that ultimately give way to passionate and fervent light.

Christianity is hardcore. It is life and death carnality shrouded in the mystery and intrigue of supernatural revelation; this is not lightweight stuff we’re talking.

John Bunyan’s allegorical masterpiece, Pilgrim’s Progress (written in the late 1600s while he was imprisoned in England for unlawful preaching), is deep theologically, emotionally, spiritually, literally, metaphorically and symbolically. Same holds true for much of CS Lewis’ literary works. Other examples of spectacular Christian forms of artistic excellence include the religious hymns and poetic expressions of Charles Wesley, John Newton and Martin Luther, as well as the phenomenal musical compositions of George Frideric Handel, most notably his epic praise and worship piece dedicated to the resurrection of the Messiah.  An honorable mention must go to the superbly eloquent audio recordings of the King James Bible by the gifted voice actor Alexander Scourby.

In modern times, very few have truly distinguished themselves; although there have been a few surprise moments in which the passion and vitality of the Christian faith exudes from an inspiring piece of artistic expression.

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Never a fan of the Hip-hop genre, I was blown away when introduced to the spiritually-laced musical stylings of Christian-rapper, Lecrae, whose deep theological and experiential sentiments are most fervently captured in a two minute and twenty-four second track titled “Church Clothes.” On this vital offering, Lecrae captures the power that can be conveyed through this genre of music to speak powerful, fundamental, Biblical truth. Lecrae’s delivery has the feel of a sermon; one in which he takes to task ‘religious’ opportunists like Jackson and Sharpton, as well as those who use the crooked ways of these men as an excuse for their own spiritual neglect.

Another artist (in the realm of music) who has captured a small, expressive piece of somber reverence associated with the flesh-spirit tension of the Christian paradox is songwriter Jon Foreman. Foreman’s four-disc solo recordings (released in late 2007 and early 2008) bring to life the joyful praise and bitter lament declared by the prophets and the saints as recorded in the Bible. These spiritual expressions are tastefully interpreted through song. The mostly acoustic offerings are performed with the reverence and humility one would rightly desire from such spiritually weighty content.

Personally, when considering artistic expressions of faith, I try to discern the orthodoxy of the content, the sincerity of the artist, and whether the art-form crosses the line or is objectionable or dishonoring to God in any way. However, I try not to position myself as arbiter of what is an acceptable form of Christian expression. It is my hope that the motives of the artist are sincere and that any profit reaped is a secondary, consequential result of a higher calling.

Let us not be afraid to express ourselves in all spheres of human experience. We should not be ashamed to let our creative light shine!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

A.J. Castellitto is a freelance writer. His writings have been published by Western Journalism, Reformed Perspective and RenewAmerica. He is author of the book America Lost. Tweets @AmericaLost2014

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