Sell-outs & Cowards. How Consumerist Christianity Ruined Its Rich, Artistic Heritage

Check Out Another Article from W. Alexander on Christianity and Art: Can A Christian Make Real, Valid Art?

How Putting An Adjective Before Artists Ruins Art.

         I’m thirty-two-years young, and I’m a Christian, and I’m an artist —a writer. However, I loathe the title Christian Artist. Despite painting and drawing in several different mediums, I consider myself a professional writer, and I don't add my religion to my label. The fact I have more success in writing is not why I call myself a writer. I am a writer because God made me one. I know it is my calling to drive a reader’s heart and mind toward empathy. I will never write Christian Fiction, but I will be known as a Christian who writes great fiction —think J.R.R. Tolkien. I will not spend my life wallowing in the superficial, fearing I will crack grey-haired eggshells, afraid to offend my elders, afraid to mislead my mentees, afraid to speak heresy, afraid to share truth when the Church decides truth is no longer expedient. No, I will give the world the beauty and desolation God gives my voice to share—both are beautiful to God.

            So, what’s the biggest difference in my opinion between a self-attesting Christian artist and an artist? To me, the only useful adjective for a Christian artist is the word combination sell-out. Anyone who wears labels, any label, is appeasing, and selling-out themselves to their chosen tribe. But, I want to be clear, I do not think those who identify as Christian artist are in-the-wrong. I believe anyone who carries this label, or a comparative one —Islamic Artist, Atheist Artist, etcetera— is thinking about money and their position in this world of men more than the truth in their art. Capitalism is the enemy of art, because it forces labels on artists to succeed. Which is the problem in the first place: artists and everyone else are told financial success is the bench-mark. Not only is this not true, it is a sin. The sin of being overly pragmatic, because it means the artist is embedded with the lie that someone's opinion on you determines the value of your work. Obviously, I am anti-label. 

         You have heard Virgil’s infamous words that fortune favors the bold, but I give you this: poverty stalks the cautious. Of course, I’m speaking of poverty of spirit. This happens when you hate yourself as an artist and person, because you are unwilling to walk along the borders of human thought and culture. Simply plugging into a system, like religion, and echoing what everyone else wants to hear robs you of your art and life. For the artist, the two are inseparable. Disagree with me? That's fine, but remember the Gospel of Mark's infamous words, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Emphasis is mine. 

         Art shocks and comforts, breaks barriers and forms bonds, fights for justice and soothes the broken-hearted. Art is the last thing humans have on Earth that is a direct personality trait of God the creator. And people trade in this truth for delusions and matching SUVs in the suburbs—American Christianity. Knowing this truth isn’t good enough. As a Christian, I have to accept that the lie I tell myself, that people will judge my faith, my God, according to how I reveal truth, is indeed a lie which renders the artist afraid to explore, to create something new, something true. God is in charge of the response, not the artist. Anyone who tells you, Christian leader or not, that your job is to bring glory to God mistakes the purpose of art. If God made you to create it, He will manifest in it. If Jesus was here today, he'd scream stop being pharisees and be artists. So, have faith, because God is in control, not you, and let go of that desire to be overly pragmatic. Remember this: poverty stalks the cautious.

            The label Christian Artist is our way of saying, we want control over God's message. You have no right to control art or His message. Which is why God has never let art, in my opinion, become formulaic. The idea that Christians should only make biblical art did not come from God. The Bible did not exist when God created our world and universe. The Bible is a road to wisdom and insight to help us navigate the ups and downs of the human condition. Furthermore, scripture is not an instruction manual on the experience of creating acrylic paintings or great stories. My point: if you create art in a way that moves your reader or viewer toward empathy for another, you have done the will of God. If you create to appease the opinions of your church brethren and sisters, family and in-laws, you have done what you will for God. These are different paths.

            In short, the difference between an artist and a self-attesting Christian artist is simple: one’s at odds, often living outside acceptance with the world they live in, and the other, the identifying Christian artist, is ensnared by consumerism, and it's evil twin called group thinking. These artists, writers or painters, singers or dancers, musicians or sculptors chose the safety of their tribe over truth. Drop most of society’s labels, and you’ll drop most of society’s problems. Again, though, knowing this fact isn’t enough, so you have to remember artists must create or they will crack. God didn’t make writers and painters, digital artists and actors, to be peace keepers. No, God made artists to be peace makers. Pragmatism, albeit meant with good intention, is cancer to courage, and sells truth for acceptance. A price I am no longer willing to pay.

           Reject consumerism. Create because you were created to spark new ideas and reveal the words behind new thoughts. Look outside places and cultures infected by ultra-Capitalism, and you'll see art thriving. 

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More Posts from W. Alexander

The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

“…I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”

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