by guest blogger Kelsey Alexander
Picture an oppressively hot July day in the middle of the Colorado Rockies. A Christian youth conference is underway on a local college campus, and its basketball stadium is steadily filling with teenagers. In walks a frizzy thirteen year-old redhead with a mouth full of braces and a fanatical love for the Backstreet Boys. Bible in hand, the frizzy redhead navigates the sea of jorts and WWJD bracelets and finds a seat next to her friends. Moments later, the speaker takes his place at the podium, adjusts his headset mic, and launches into a passionate discourse on the harmful influences of secular art on Christian culture. How the consumption of secular music, books, and movies can distract Christians from God’s will for their lives and drive a wedge between the Lord and His children. How it condones underage drinking, wild parties, premarital sex, and worst of all—dancing. The speaker continues, saying “We’re to be in this world and yet not of it,” and he implores the crowd to rid themselves of temptation and turn to “Christian” art for entertainment.
Filled with conviction, the frizzy redhead returned home, promptly gathered up her extensive CD collection of secular music, and asked her mother to take her to the secondhand music store, where she exchanged the CDs for cold, hard cash. Had she been truly faithful, she would have foregone the cash and burned the CDs ceremoniously in her backyard, so no one’s salvation would be jeopardized by the controversial lyrics of “I Want It That Way.” Unfortunately, the American entrepreneurial spirit won out.
Why do I share this story? To pose a question, a question this no-longer-frizzy-having-discovered-Moroccan-Oil-redhead still wrestles with today: What makes art “Christian?”
Some might say it’s the number of times a lyricist injects “Lord” in a song or how often an author cites Scripture in a novel. Others might disagree, saying it’s not defined by the content of the art but rather the intent of the artist behind the creative work. For example, I once heard a youth pastor say that if spiritual parallels can be drawn from an artist’s creation, then that work falls under the Christian genre. If that’s true, then a novel featuring a character who sacrifices his life to save those he loves could be categorized as Christian. However, would there still be room for that novel in the Christian genre if the character was say…a young wizard who attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and wields a magic wand?
It’s a slippery slope, this labeling of what’s Christian art and what’s not. And it’s made even more so by art’s subjective nature. In theory, two people can listen to the same song and walk away with two completely different opinions, and neither would be wrong. I’d like to think the same subjectivity applies to Christian art; just because a song isn’t sung by a Christian artist or isn’t explicitly Christian, it in no way limits God’s ability to use that song and that artist for His ultimate purpose.
Bottom line, I don’t have a clear and fast definition for what constitutes Christian art. However, I’d like to think that God’s all-pursuing love and the depth of Christ’s sacrifice can’t be confined to a particular genre. Regardless of an artist’s intent, I believe that our Creator has the ability to use all forms and genres of art for His Glory and to draw people nearer to Him. After all, He used Pharaoh to work His will. Who knows, He might even use a Backstreet Boys song.
About the guest blogger: I met Kelsey soon after moving to Nashville. We’re a part of the same small group at our church (Fellowship Bible Church). She was actually the first person I met in the group, assigned to greet me “the new girl” as I pulled in so I knew which apartment door to walk into. Right away I knew I’d like Kelsey. She was funny, kind and had awesome hair. Since our friendship, Kelsey as begun blogging herself at Kelsey to be Determined. And if you’re lucky, she might agree to cater your next event with her oh-so-yummy desserts.