replacing a popular piece of art with something that doesn't cuss doesn't make it "christian".7:00 AM
A while ago I wrote a post. A...slightly aggressive and passionate post. Lots of people interacted with that post, both to agree with it and to very much disagree with it, which was cool and interesting and fun.
So I'm back for more, because I have a lot of thoughts on this.
Here is the number one thing a good story is: honest. It reflects the world, it reflects human nature, it shows you who you are (even when you don't want to see it), it hits you hard because it contains truth. Sometimes that means diving into heavy topics, sometimes it doesn't. But art tells us something that's true, and it makes us think about it.
Which is just one of the many, many reasons why "Christian" as a genre/mainstream of its own frustrates me. More often than not, somehow it rings false.
"But a lot of secular media is awful too, Aimee!"
Yes. And as people who believe in the Ultimate Truth, as people who should have a better grasp on this...we need to have some higher standards. We need to get our act together. We need to stop being content with the mediocre, and we need to tell true stories, not ones that push a message.
I'm sick of message-pushing. I really, really am. I'm sick of watching a ~Christian~ movie and hearing them repeat the same message and watching the characters shuffle into a little line that fits them into that message. I'm sick of watching stories built around one little life lesson to take away, all wrapped up in a package of emotional manipulation and feel-good Newsboys songs.
It's just insult to injury that most of these stories aren't even original. They're remastered secular favorites with the "Christian" label slapped on the box and no cuss words and the message changed around a little.
Guys. Let's just. Not do that.
Christian media has its good bits, of course. It has its artists and songs and maybe even books (though I have yet to find one) that are genuine and truthful and powerful. There are some that I personally enjoy a lot, because they have value. But Christian media as a whole makes me angry, because it's a meaningless name. More often than not it stands for "replacements for secular things so you don't feel guilty or sinful while you're watching it" and that is not how it should be, it's not right, and if anything it's more insulting than anything else. When the big scary secular culture is into war movies, we add some more Bible verses and take out all the really gory parts and water everything down until it focuses around some moral lesson. When romance novels are popular we write books where the heroine has *gasp* fallen prey to a sensationalized sin and has to make her way back with the help of a stunningly attractive man but don't worry, the endless descriptions of him aren't lust, they're just the heroine appreciating God's creation, right? Christian media exists as its own niche because the secular media is bad, because blah blah bad messages, because "clean", because we want things that focus on Jesus, so the solution to that is to pull away from the culture entirely and create our own little bubble of things that create the same thrills without using quite as many F-bombs.
I really, really think we're missing the point here.
And I really think we've given up.
Christian media has become, I think, a way to escape from a culture and a media that's gotten out of our hands. The world has taken control of the loudest voices in the arts, and the arts shape the culture, and yes, what we end up with is a lot of sin-glorifying trash with no actual value to it. So, as good Christians, our response to those loud voices is...
To create our own little fun things and hide in the Christian corner instead of contributing our own voices, I guess?
Yes, the culture is against a lot of our values. And it's loud and trashy and screaming. But listen: why isn't our response to that to fight back? Why isn't our response to wade into the darkness and fight back, to bring the light, to refuse to bow to this? You're an artist. (I'm assuming. This an open letter to all my Christian artist friends, I guess.) Artists, no matter what kind of art you create, are supposed to be rebels. Bold. Revolutionary. The things you do are powerful and they can shape things. There's a reason God created art, there's a reason why he made words so powerful, why he let stories touch us so deeply, why there's so much beauty in a good song or a well-done painting. If your response to the artistic gift God gave you is to reserve it only for things that are "Christian", only for things that are comfortable and fit into the Christian Mainstream box we've designed for ourselves, if your version of being an artist is to hide with the things that make your group of people feel comfortable rather than charging into the fight and using your voice to fight against the voices in art and media that are wrong... I don't know, man, I'm just not totally sold on this whole Christian thing and the idea that that's what we should be doing and consuming.
Why are we content with mediocrity?
Listen, I know it feels like truth is being smothered. And it is. I know it's easy to say that there's just not a market for it, or that there's just not enough money to make good Christian films (that's a stupid excuse, by the way) or whatever else you want to throw out there. I know. And it's a hard, uphill battle. But I think if we took the focus away from things not cussing and using as many Bible verses as we can...we'd start looking a little more toward actual truth.
I don't want us to write "Christian" things.
I want us to write true things.
I know you've found a story that rings true for you. I know you've read or watched or heard something that you could #relate to. It tore at you and it made you see the world in a different light and maybe it made you cry, because you saw yourself in it, because it was true. There are good and true things in this world that are constant, and the very best stories are those that find that truth.
Because God is truth. And if what you're creating is honest and true, it doesn't matter if there's a Bible verse in it. It doesn't matter if it's labeled under "Christian fiction". Listen, it doesn't even matter if it has some bad words in it or some scenes that are a bit more gory. Good stories are true stories and God is truth and so, in the end, shouldn't our focus be to make something good?
Most Christian media, most things given the "Christian" label at the bookstore, are trash. I'm gonna say it again: they're trash. In a way, they're no better than secular pop, because they're empty. They're catchy and soulless and they're meant to spread a message, not talk about something true and higher. Again, not every story or song has to be C.S. Lewis. But even the lightest of stories can be true and honest and noble. And the best and most effective stories, the most Christian stories, don't spread a message.
They tell the truth. And the truth speaks for itself.
Please, please let's stop pushing things. Let's stop being afraid that people aren't going to know that it's Christian enough if we don't talk about it constantly. Let's stop worrying that there's a problem with some ~mature content~ in a story, as if that inherently makes it bad. (More on that next week.) Let's stop worrying about pushing something, and let's worry more about creating good things. Stop worrying about particular labels, and just make art.
Be a voice to the world instead of hiding from it.
Just shut up and be honest already.
some examples/recommended reading, if you will*:
[read] les miserables // red rising // a series of unfortunate events // bruiser
[watch] daredevil // LOST // rogue one: a star wars story
[listen to] twenty one pilots // typhoon // jon bellion // relient k
*the listed things are not "clean". they are not labeled as Christian. in some cases, the creators themselves aren't Christian. but they're good stories that tell the truth and, as a result, point to something greater and higher, without message getting in the way. some of them have swearing and violence and sex in them. that doesn't take away from the meaning. one of them is star wars. i have no regrets.