Pause Production! Part 2

Christians need to stop making Christian art. 

That's what I said last week. I defended it by appealing to good old Martian Luther who charged Christians to focus on excellence in their day jobs, not on using it a platform for the gospel. (Unless of course, that is your job. In which case you better be preaching the gospel!) 

I put forth the idea that excellence should be the primary concern of the Christian artist and that many in the church have flipped this idea on it's head, making the message paramount, often sacrificing quality.

And therein lies the irony. 

The messages in Christian art/media are so often robbed of their power because of the lack of a polished technique and approach. The reason I think most Christians should pause in making Christian art is so that they can focus on mastering whatever medium they use. That will then allow them to convey a Christian message and ideal that will reach more than the faithful and penetrate deeper into people's minds and hearts.

It's not that Christian art/media hasn't had an impact. God is able to use whatever He wants, and I have seen how lives have been encouraged and changed by Christian movies that I consider to be bad movies. But it would be disrespectful and lazy of artists to put in a bare bones effort and trust that it will still produce an impact simply because we know our God is able to use anything to speak to people.

Fortunately, others in the Christian community are beginning to see this as well. I recently was given an article from the American Family Associate Journal about Christian filmmaking. They can be a radical group so I didn't expect to agree with the article, but I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged. They acknowledged that something is missing in the Christian film community.

Christian filmmakers must realize that the message in faith-based films can be lost in poor presentation.
— "The maturing of Christian filmmaking" by Nicholas H. Dean

They spoke about colleges and universities that are striving to be the best in the business, Christian and secular, and to prepare their students to work in the world of film. They talked about the need for filmmakers to learn how to communicate truth in a way that resonates with both Christian and secular audiences.

Many beyond the walls of the church are not prepared to hear the message shared within because they don’t understand the language familiar to the Christian community. Thus, the message in faith-based films may be muffled because of generic platitudes of the faith.
— Nicholas H. Dean

Go read the whole article here. It is well worth the time, and if you are a fellow artist, it will encourage your heart. I took a small issue with them on one point. At the end Mr. Dean maintained that the future for Christian filmmaking is bright if:

...hopeful viewers are willing to do their part in financially supporting quality faith-based entertainment.

It is important to support Christian films. The money they earn from their films will allow them to improve their quality.

But we don't need to support every film out there that has a Christian label on thrown on it.  

And we should not let Christian artists get away with mediocracy. 

I think this is my biggest frustration with the Christian community's interactions with art. The lack of constructive criticism and call for excellence about the Christian movies that have been produced astound me. Part of supporting something is pointing out weaknesses. But I think often Christians are so relieved to find a clean movie with an uplifting message that they decide it must be good, even if it isn't well produced.

I have found great solace in the youtube channel Say Goodnight Kevin. Kevin is a Christian who critiques Christian movies, holding them "to the same standard as other movies." Check it out and watch his reviews. They are funny, clean, and enlightening. In talking about this with a friend, she mentioned that it may be due to a lack of discernment about what makes good art. Watch some of the reviews. It'll give you a base line for evaluating film.

The lack of knowledge and expertise brings me back to my reasons as to why I think Christians should pause in making specifically, and certainly blatant, Christian art. We need the time to learn the craft, the criteria to evaluate a product, and how to communicate well.  After we have mastered our medium then we can make art that explores any truth we want. Until then let us focus on excellence lest our shoes fall apart on us.