“The feeling among many Christian artists, at least those who embrace the term, seems to be that the message is so important it will shine through even a modest effort.”
Why is there so much mediocre Christian art? It has gotten to a point where Christian artists shun the label because it has become synonymous with substandard art.
We are enjoying a time when a great number of Christian faith based movies are being made, but most of them are panned by critics or receive so little attention that no one knows they exist.
The feeling among many Christian artists, at least those who embrace the term, seems to be that the message is so important it will shine through even a modest effort. Perhaps, but if we take our role seriously, using the gifts God has given us to win over souls, and glorify Him, then does not that effort deserve the absolute best we are capable of?
Imagine a carpenter who is commissioned to build a throne for a king. It is unlikely that he would slap together a simple chair that just gets the job done. It is more likely he will brush up on his skills, take an honest look at what he is capable of, and acquire the knowledge and talent he needs to construct a throne worthy of a king.
There is a story about the great Chinese painter Hokusai. One day he was commissioned by the prince to paint a lion. The prince waited months but the artist did not fulfill the commission. Finally the prince went down to Hokusai’s studio in person and demanded the painting. Hokusai immediately took a blank piece of paper and within a few minutes, had completed a magnificent painting of a lion.
Although he was greatly impressed the prince was also somewhat exasperated. “If you could do it so quickly, why have you taken so long to do so?” he asked.
The painter then took the prince inside his workshop where the prince saw hundreds of drawings, paintings, and sketches of lions. “It took me this long to learn to paint a lion worthy of you,” explained the artist.
Philip Kosloski, over at The National Catholic Register, recently published an article suggesting another reason for so much bland Christian art, particularly in films. He suggests that film makers are more interested in preaching than in bearing witness.
He makes an excellent point. The witness born by someone who dies for their beliefs has much more impact on people than something they see as a sermon. People like stories of heroic belief, they don’t so much like to be preached to. Read the entire article here.
If artists truly embrace their calling they will want to make the most excellent work they are capable of, even if that means spending years developing their gifts. After all, our true audience is not other people, our true audience is God and His saints.
That is why we need to stay close to Christ, through prayer, through the sacraments, and through scripture. We hear His voice and we follow Him. But in this world of endless noise and distraction, it is easy to get lost in the woods and ravines, and fall prey to the wolves and lions that are constantly waiting for us to stray from the safety of the shepherd’s watchful eye.
Each of us has a vocation, directed by the gifts we have been given. We are expected to work on improving our gifts and talents, shaping them to serve our vocation. In doing that work, receiving the gifts and living out the vocation they direct us to, we find that the gift we give back to God, and to our brothers and sisters, is the gift of ourselves.
Perhaps more than any other, the artistic vocation is gift meant for others, a gift you give away. Artists act as the means by which God conveys to us His Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
We are merely brushes in the hand of the divine artist, and we fulfill that role best, when we stay close enough to hear our master’s voice.
© 2018 Lawrence Klimecki
all images are courtesy of Pixabay