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. please don't misunderstand this.

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.

16 comments

  1. I love this and at the same time don't just because there are those few books I absolutely love from the quote and quote "Christian" genre. (Such as Nadine Brandes if you haven't read her books go read them)

    But I agree. There are a lot of Amish romances that I get sick of seeing AND I WONDER WHERE THE SCI FI AND STEAMPUNK AND OTHER WEIRD GENRES WENT.

    I don't like that people say Christian music and Christian books and Christian movies when Jesus didn't come and die for the media. He came and died for the creators of that media and it's our job to shine the truth through what we create. It's our job to share His love and hope through something beautiful whether it's a book a a music score for a movie. The music score is no less Christian than the Newsboy song right? It's art and if it was made to glorify God and shine a light, then I'd say it's good and true.

    (I've been working on a post about that^...... Maybe I'll post it)

    And Twenty One Pilots gosh. I could write a whole book on them and their songs. I won't get started.

    ReplyDelete
  2. GAH, I resonate with this so much. As a writer/musician/artist type, I want to create something I love and am proud of. It is SO hard (I repeat: SO hard) for me to find great Christian music these days. I don't even try with Christian fiction. The whole idea of creating a "Christian" genre doesn't make too much sense to me. We're in the world, not of it, yes, but how can we effectively witness to a lost world if, like you said, we're hiding in our Christian corner? Preach it, sister.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Aimee, thank you for this! This like made me get a little teary eyed so well done for being so passionate and bold with your words!! (I'm still working on that myself haha) The best works of art are the ones that move you and make you feel deeply, the ones that are full of truth and hope and God is all of those things. He moves you and makes you feel deeply and he is truth and hope. This post is so encouraging and awesome!

    Down the Rabbit Hole (www.melodypersonetteauthor.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amen! I've done a lot of thinking on these things too. Maybe someday I'll do my own post. I think pigeonholing Christian topics into Christian books or movies isn't right. And most of the time, yes, books and movies that are labeled as Christian are generally not very good. As Christians, we should seek to bring glory to God through our art and work, and to try and reach non Christians through it as well. Being preachy and labeling stuff as Christian books/movies/music, isn't going to appeal to people who aren't in the faith.
    I have learned more about being a Christian from "secular" books and movies than I have from Christian media. The examples you gave at the end are all amazing and do an awesome job at subtly weaving in thought-provoking themes even though they might have some swearing in it.
    Great post! Don't ever be afraid to voice your opinion on this. It's important and I'm with you 100%!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, yes, and thank you.
    Have you read Death By Living by N. D. Wilson? It's a fantastic book (the only nonfiction book I couldn't put down and looked forward to every night!), and he touched on this. This post reminded me of what he said. Also I like his fiction books (particularly the 100 Cupboards series) - definitely not your typical "Christian fiction"!
    Also I would add this: Christian is *who we are*, not how we act. Likewise, how we write shouldn't be all about some precooked "faith-based" message and 200 Bible verses, but honor Christ through the *soul* of the writing. Being a Christian isn't about walking around thumping our Bibles and quoting verses to every unfortunate checker at the grocery store and yelling "PRAISE THE LORD!!" when we finally find the right flour and proclaiming loudly and often hypocritically about how everyone is doomed to hellfire because of this or that sin they're engaging in and how much tv they're watching and whether they're gluten/gmo-free or not. That's not what being a Christian is about. It's about having been saved by Jesus and now living a life that honors Him. It's yelling "praise the Lord" when we actually mean it not just as a platitude, it's not being ashamed of what we believe and being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have but respecting other people and not being a stench in their nostrils by saying "hi my name is Katie and I'm a Christian wanna hear the gospel message?". Words (hi "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" want me to pray with you?") are far less effective than actions. When you live a life that honors God, people notice and ask, and will be more receptive to what you have to say about it. Writing truthful stories is the same (I believe). Write a story that, like your life, honors God, even with all its imperfection. Write a story you'd be okay with handing to Jesus and letting Him read. Write a story that touches people on the shoulder and gets their attention, that makes them say wow and fills them with longing for *something more*. The Bible isn't the only place God's truth resides. He made the world. He's all around us. It's not that complicated to show Him in your writing without punctuating every sentence with John 3:16. God, like everything else in writing, is a "show, don't tell". Believe me, your story will have a lot more power that way.
    Just my two cents worth. �� I know you may get a lot of backlash and mobbed by platitudinal pirañas; I'm not sure I could open myself up for that! So thanks for being brave enough to post this!!! ❤️

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm a fan of hope and I'm a fan of being real and legit. But I'm also a fan of good Christian works because sometimes that's what I need in my life. I agree with some of your points and disagree with others. But I think it's cool that you put yourself out there for us to see your thoughts and opinions on the subject. So kudos and brownies to you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yess, this! It seems like today's Church tends to either compulsively isolate itself from secular curlture or completely embrace it, neither of which are appropriate or biblical responses (in general, I mean. There are plenty of individual churches and people who maintain a more healthy medium). Making art that focuses on truth is going to do a lot more good, and draw a lot more people to God, than any badly-disguised sermon is. And beyond that, it really makes me sad to see people constrain themselves to Christian fiction out of misguided guilt. I have so many friends who avoid "secular" fiction altogether, and sometimes it seems like they've only seen a fraction of the beauty in the world by avoiding so much of its best art. That's probably a bit dramatic, but still. Anyway, great post! I applaud you for speaking your thoughts on this so honestly.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally agree with you, Aimee. It's so frustrating! I write fiction that's not straight up "Christian" and yet I'm trying to put themes of redemption and real messy sacrificial love and family into it. Because we need to get out there. And I'm so tired of the watered down Amish romance and family dramas. When you're raised on only Christian media, you're going to believe that this is what you're stuck with - and it makes me wonder if that's part of why so many teens walk away from the faith.

    We need quality stuff. We need to know that stories that aren't labeled Christian are okay when they have real and resonating truth. And more people need to be brave enough to say it. :)

    And yes ROGUE ONE. I WILL FLAIL OVER ROGUE ONE FOREVER.

    thefloridsword.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for always being the person who is willing to talk about this. It is so freaking important.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Aimee this is gold. I really agree with most of it and it's definitely given me something to think about.

    Hailey
    www.haileyhudson.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. *starts the slow clap*

    I think you hit the nail on the head. We've become so obsessed with our message that we've neglected the truth. (With the exception of a few authors, artists, etc. that are admittedly difficult to find). Good post!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love this so much, Aimee! And I love you so much for being bold enough to say these things. This issue is so frustrating and you're totally right. The only Christian writers I really truly respect are the golden oldies (CS Lewis, Tolkien, George MacDonald) who wrote good stories with the truth powerfully weaving its way through. I wish more Christian writers could do that in these modern days.
    Thank you for such great words and great insight. Keep shining!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, I'm fangirling over you and your writing and your take on life with my fiance now because you're wonderful and I can and that is all. :P

      Delete
  13. This is so true. So much Christian media is only Christian because it is "Clean" and avoids darkness and "bad" things. I believe that there are things we should keep out of our Christian writing, because it simply isn't God glorifying, but its only in the darkness you can actually see light. Maybe those books at the Christian bookshop are clean and nice, but they aren't teaching us truth.
    A Christian story is more than just a novel with a sermon tacked on the end. If we are seriously seeking God in our writing and trying to glorify Him, that will appear in our stories, even if the story isn't clean, nice, "Christian" stuff.
    This is such a good article, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just found this article that has an interview with Bono, and he is YOUR GUY. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bono-has-a-message-for-young-christian-artists_us_591b0b63e4b07d5f6ba62fc8

    ReplyDelete

hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.