Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why Can't Christian Media Be Good Quality?

   There's a lot of media out there. There's millions of songs being released every year, thousands of books being published, especially with the new self-publishing phenomenon, and oodles and oodles of movies. As Christians are called to be lights in a darkened world, we feel a calling to place our own songs, books, and movies out there with our worldview to counteract all the other media people are constantly gushing over. Yet we never see people fangirling over the latest Christian book releases all over Facebook or Pinterest. Millions of screaming girls don't flock to concerts of Big Daddy Weave and Casting Crowns. And Christian movies get nothing but mockery from everyone that doesn't publicly claim to be Christian. Is this just all symptoms of a deranged world turning its back on its Creator and Lord? Or is the world willing to admit something about Christian media we ourselves are too afraid to?
   Now don't get me wrong: many times, the producers of Christian media have their heart in the right place. They honestly have a good message they want to share and they are genuinely trying to spread the Gospel. This is why I think many Christians are too afraid to admit the truth about Christian media. They're afraid that other Christians will claim they're denying that the Gospel is true instead of denying that Chris Tomlin is the next John Newton. That's not what I'm saying, so don't misunderstand me. I'm not criticizing anybody's beliefs. 
   But what is it about today's Christian media that isn't hitting the mark? Secular people might claim it is our "stuffy" worldview. But any examination of classic media that still lives on and is well-loved today will show that's not true. Charles Dickens' books have lived on through over a hundred years, countless adaptations, and constant fans the world over. Yet Charles Dickens was a devout Christian, as is obvious in his books.  Treasure Island and The Swiss Family Robinson have been well-loved for ages, and they are also written by Christians. Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows, Heidi, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and countless others were all written by Christians. And it's not limited to books. Some of the most famous songs of all time, Silent Night and Amazing Grace, were both written by Christians, and pastors to boot. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, and others were all Christians. And the lion of all modern entertainment who shaped the twentieth century and what exists of the twenty-first, Walt Disney himself, was an unapologetic Christian. Christians have the most amazing heritage of well-done, unforgettable, life-changing media of anybody in the world. So why is modern Christian media today the butt of all jokes and something that nobody but Christians even cares about?
   The answer is simple: most modern Christian music, books, and movies are not good quality. Most modern Christian books are not quality literature and are not even close to comparing to the works of Charles Dickens and C. S. Lewis. None of the Christian artists out there today are ever going to write anything as memorable as Silent Night or Amazing Grace and only a few, such as Michael W. Smith for example, are true musicians. And ever since the death of Walt Disney during the production of The Jungle Book, wholesome good movies made by Christians have been almost non-existent. Instead, all we have are movies like Left Behind and The Mark. All we get from Christian books, movies, and music nowadays is shallow messages, preachy words, and sub-par work. But why is this and how do we fix it?
   Most Christian artists, writers, screenwriters, and movie producers are too concerned with their label and the message they're trying to get across than with the actual works of art they're supposed to be producing. They really are trying to spread God's kingdom. But they're producing music, books, and movies for all the wrong reasons. They produce them because they know that's where the people are and that's what our culture revolves around, when they really should be producing music and books and movies because they have a passion for creating music, books, or movies deep down inside of them.

   MGM Studios has a motto: Ars Gratia Artis, which is Latin for "Art for art's sake." This idea really captures where good art (books, music, and movies) comes from: artists who would create their works even if no one was watching and their works would never be seen by the light of day. As Christians, we who were born artists have an even greater reason to create the art that demands to be let out of us: our God who loves us and has adopted us has given us a talent that can't be suppressed. If for no other reason than to make Him smile do we want to create our art, but our beliefs and our callings push through and drive us so that our art becomes not only a thing of entertainment, but a creation with the possibility to change the world.
   Christian musicians and authors and movie makers should focus not on making Christian music, books, and movies, but on being good artists creating good art. And because God has given us a new nature and made us a new man, and because true art is a reflection of the soul of the artist who created it, our art will not reflect us, but Christ who lives in us (see Galatians 2:20).
   And that is when art changes the world.

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