‘Christian Art’ May Be Safe, But Is It Good?

Christian art

Recently I was sitting with a friend and the subject of music came up. I asked him what type of music he listened to and he told me he loved “Christian music.”

I hadn’t realized that was a genre.

Christians can and do make music all the way across the spectrum of musical genres, and many of my favorite metal bands are Christians. However, I love what Jon Foreman once pointed out about that phrase:

People are saved. People are Christians. Music is not Christian. Jesus did not die so music could go to heaven; He died for people.

What’s Wrong With Christian Art Today?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the topic of Christian art and how we interact with the creative endeavors of the world.

Michael Gungor said that he and his friends could tell, without fail, which songs were ‘Christian’ after only hearing the first five seconds of them because they sounded more fake and plastic.

Bono said that Christian art ironically lacks the honesty which is so evident in the Bible’s own songbook, the Psalms.

I think the Christian media scene has carved out for itself a unique niche. Speaking generally, it doesn’t create the best films, the most original music, or the most unique books. There tend to be boundaries within which it works, and these boundaries give a lot of people comfort.

In other words, people perpetually subscribe to Christian media because it’s safe. 

We can be sure that by shopping at Hobby Lobby, we may be buying some mass-produced original-seeming kitsch piece of art or a quote painted on ‘vintage’ wood, but at least it won’t have any cuss words or nudity.

Many American Christians have become attached to this universe in which safety and shelter are prized above honesty, authenticity and risk.

We would rather something be safe than good.

Ironically, this is the exact opposite of C.S. Lewis’ description of God via the character of Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia:

“Aslan is a lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

This is one of my favorite ways to think of God. He isn’t safe…but He’s good. Like the beautiful power of a tsunami or the destructive slithering body of a tornado, God isn’t safe. Not at all. But He is good. He is beautiful.

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Ethan Renoe
Ethan is a speaker, writer, and photographer currently living in Los Angeles. He has lived on 6 continents, gone to 6 schools, had 28 jobs, and done 4 one-armed pull-ups. He recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute. Follow him at ethanrenoe.com.