Last Sunday night ABC presented the Academy Awards or the Oscars; the week before that, the sad excuse for a cultural phenomenon called Fifty Shades of Grey was released. In light of those two events, I read a blog post by Brandon Ambrosino entitled, “Why are Christian movies so painfully bad?” And this week, I read this article from Kuyerian.com regarding the spectacular performance of Lady Gaga’s tribute to The Sound of Music that posited some of the same questions regarding the quality of “Christian” movies.
In the wake of Fifty Shades there apparently was a Christian “response” called Old Fashioned – a movie I had never heard of before the Vox.com post – and Ambrosino uses this as an opportunity to point out, that as a whole, Christian movies are terrible precisely because so many of them are reactions to secular movements. He also goes on to point out that often Christian films set out promote a “good” (gospel) message at the expense of artistic greatness, and poses the question, why?
Now, I have not read the book nor seen the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey – which I have heard, at best, amounts to little more than poorly written, poorly acted porn and at worst, represents the dawn of the apocalypse – so I’m not sure making the case for Hollywood’s cinematic greatness should rest on the sad-masocistic shoulders of Fifty Shades, but I get Ambrosino’s point. I especially understand the Kuyperian article, which points to the stature of Sound of Music. Christian movies aren’t, on the whole, very good artistically… and this is true of other artistic expressions like music and other visual arts. Billy Corgan, of the Smashing Pumpkins said something similar that resonated with many in the Christian community in a 2013 CNN Interview.
Because I’m a pastor it may come as a shock that I don’t listen to Christian radio stations very much or most Christian music, and I don’t rush to the theater when the latest Kirk Cameron movie comes out. And that’s because they aren’t great artistically, and I think that is wrong.
There are exceptions and yes, greatness is a matter of opinion, but in the 21st century Christian artists, actors, directors, musicians, do not lead the way.
Judeo-Christian artistic heritage is rich with examples of greatness. From this tradition we have Bach, Handel’s Messiah, CS Lewis, the Biblical themes in Michangelo, Da Vinci and most of the Renaissance, even the The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. Lest we forget, some of the greatest poetry in the world is found in the Psalms. Yet, this foundation of artistic greatness has yet to be significantly built upon.
I do not like to be negative. I do not like to be discouraging. And I am admittedly speaking from the cheap seats. I am not an artist, nor a musician. Preaching is considered by some to be an art-form, and I study the craft of it from the standpoint of other preachers and from secular public speakers… but I don’t equate it with movie-making or creative writing or song writing… Yet, I think we shouldn’t settle for less than greatness when it comes to art that attaches the name of “Jesus” to it. If we do anything, we should give God our very best and even learn from those who may not share our religious convictions. Followers of Jesus should be known more as influencers in the culture than as reactionaries against the culture. We who are taught, “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.…” should lead the way in how we reflect the beauty and majesty of the Creator.