Let me start off this post with a confession. My original post, What’s Wrong with Christian Filmmaking, was not meant for mass consumption. It was written to the thirty or forty people who usually visit my blog – mostly friends and family. What I’ve experienced over the past few days has made me feel a mixture of emotions – delight, amazement, fear, humility, surprise… and I could go on listing emotions, because it’s been a roller coaster for me and my family.
You see, I’m not a guru, not by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t made anything artistic that 99.9% of the people who visited this blog have seen. I’m actually typical. Extremely typical. Mind-numbingly typical. I do think of myself as a fellow artist, but more often then not, I am fellow audience.
Maybe God chose my article to spark a renewed conversation about Christians and the arts because of my normalcy? After all, I don’t have a following or a platform. I just have my first novel, and the reason I created this blog was to try and shill my novel. Last night a friend suggested that perhaps God even led me to write my book so that I would write the article, so that the conversation would be sparked. If so, then I’m even more amazed!
I’ve been most stunned by the comments supporting the thesis of the article. I don’t say this because they were agreeing with me, but because it thrilled me to see that there so many folks out there attempting to be faithful to God through their art, who were encouraged by my words. Of course, I knew these people were out there, as I’ve had the pleasure to encounter so many creative Christians over the years, through Act One, Christians in Theatre Arts, and in different walks of my daily life. But I was still very encouraged to read all the comments about all the different creative things going on by the multitude of artists who are out there in the church.
If you are such an artist, and since I have been granted a platform for this time, I have a few things I’d like to say to you. Just remember, I’m no ancient wise man sitting on a mountaintop; these are words from a fellow pilgrim.
1) Do not be artists in isolation.
Artists tend to be introverts, and much of art is a solitary endeavor. However, if you are a writer, a painter, a dancer, a filmmaker, or any other form of artist, and you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you need to make sure you are in fellowship with other believers. Actually, this isn’t optional, as we’re commanded all throughout the Bible to be in fellowship. The most famous example of this is Hebrews 10:25, but you can click here to see one hundred verses on the importance of fellowship. I don’t know about you, but I tend to commit my darkest, most heinous sins when I’m alone. I’m also the most convinced that my wrong thinking is right when I’m alone. So, if you are not regularly meeting with other believers for whatever reason, allow me to quote Bob Newhart: STOP IT! Suck it up, find a gathering of Biblically-based Christians, and start gathering with them.
And that should only be the beginning. It’s quite easy to simply slip in to a church, give a good listen to the singing and the preaching, and then slip out, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about being vulnerable, transparent, and honest with your brothers and sisters. Open yourself to other believers from different walks of life. I contend that if you are an artist, you need this. Especially if you are an artist who is trying to take risks – you need this.
2) Guard your artistic heart.
I am a proud introvert, and I am exhausted by the idea of gathering with others. When I do, it carries me far outside of my comfort zone and then I find that I long for alone time so that i can recharge. The problem is – as I said above, if I am going to sin, it will happen when I’m alone. For example, the probability that I’m going look at pornography on the internet goes up exponentially when my family has all gone to bed and I’m alone sitting at my computer. And what’s to keep me from doing it? I mean, it’s there. It’s free. It’s instant gratification.
And the best part?
Nobody will ever know.
That’s not exactly true, though, is it? Someone very, very important does know. Someone knows every little thing I’ve ever done that I knew I shouldn’t have done, but I decided to do it anyway. He knows.
Do you know who I’m talking about?
I’m talking about myself.
I am fully aware – at all times – of my capability and propensity to sin. And that knowledge is a gift. It’s a gift because if I know that the danger is there, then I can be proactively building up defenses against the danger. It’s a danger for multiple reasons, but as artists we need realize this: your continual unrepentant sin will affect your art.
What defenses do I – as a Christian – have against sin and temptation? I want to list three basic defenses.
a) Scripture. Psalm 119 tells us that God’s word is like a light shining on the path in front of us. This isn’t metaphor (at least, not only metaphor). When we’re in the Word, we are much more aware of the temptations around us, and we’re much more aware of our inability to fight the temptations on our own. Why is it that we can quote our favorite films, but we have trouble memorizing Scripture?
b) Prayer. Even when you’re alone, you aren’t alone. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that the temptation we’re facing is not uncommon, and that God is with us as we’re being tempted. So don’t waste the opportunity of having one on one time with the one who created everything! Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that prayer should be something we’re doing around the clock. It keeps our focus on Him, and keeps our focus off of the thing that is tempting us.
c) The conviction of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26, Jesus tells his disciples that the Father is sending an Advocate to teach us and remind us of the things Jesus taught. But you have to be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice! And you have to commit to obey, even when it really grates against your desire to express yourself.
3) If you don’t hate the dark side, you probably shouldn’t be going there.
In the preface of The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” I would say this also applies to things other than devils.
As you consider portraying darkness or sin in your art, you need to examine yourself to see how that darkness or sin grips you. If it fascinates you – no matter what it is – you need to avoid it. And you must be honest with yourself, which is why my first point is so vital! Without fellowship and accountability, you can slide down the slippery slope without even realizing you are on a slippery slope, and then find yourself enthralled by the very thing you formerly detested.
How many stories are there about Christians who have had their lives ruined because of sexual sin, and how many of those Christians started out honestly hating the thing that ended up being their downfall? Every believing artist should seek open, mature, biblical accountability to help keep this from happening.
I still contend that the church needs to give her artists the freedom to explore the human story – the good, the bad, and the ugly – but we artists need to make certain that we don’t set out on that expedition alone, unguarded, and unhealthy.