In the last several months, I have found myself in several arguments with fellow Christians over art. Sometimes I have argued the more conservative side, and sometimes I have argued against the more conservative side. Recently, I have identified at what is often at battle with Christians and the arts: content and quality.
This shouldn’t be surprising, because for a good time now Christian arts have become specifically known for low-quality. If Christians want something higher-quality (movies, books, music, you name it) they generally have to gravitate towards the secular market, and gravitate towards content that is (generally) less God-glorifying.
This is what causes, I believe, the great controversies in truly Christian communities. I need only mention Harry Potter for you to get what I mean, but considering I’m “on the fence” as far as that goes, I’ll turn to examples I do understand.
My most heated arguments have been over the television show Doctor Who. Obviously, I’m a huge fan, though I admit its flaws as well, mainly: evolution and taking the Lord’s name in vain. There are other things, but most can be summed up in “evolution.” The show’s universe is one where God has no place.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? For me, it is mostly redeemed by the excellent writing, superb characters, and good morals (although, officially, there is absolutely no ground for them).
A less obvious example is "Tangled." Recently, my friend Hannah posted a review on this apparently harmless movie. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but she brought up two good points: the issue of “rebellion is good” and “the end justifies the means.” There has not been much hue and cry in the Christian community over Tangled, but it too has its issues even with its superb quality (as she also admitted).
For more middle ground, Lord of the Rings. I would guess that the conservative Christian community is split about half-and-half on this one. Some things it’s a superb story that is God-glorifying (me!), others are worried about the magic of Gandalf and the ring of power.
The list could go on and on. Over and over again, it’s the tug-of-war of content vs. quality. For some, content is more important. For others, quality. For people like me, I end up swaying for quality sometimes and content other times (Doctor Who is probably my most secular fandom).
Of course, as a Christian artist, my goal is to marry content and quality in everything I do. But as Christians, artist or not, how do we cope with this content-quality battle?
As I have disagreed with, argued with, and debated my fellow Christians for the past few months, I have finally come to a conclusion: it comes down to each person and God.
As I watch Doctor Who even amidst moral issues for the good in it, I avoid the “Trock” (Doctor Who/Time Lord rock) band “Chameleon Circuit” because it has lyrics that take God’s name in vain. For me, good, catchy music with content like that is a BAD idea--because it will get stuck in my head. I don’t want it running through my head for hours on end, and I know it will if I listen to it. It doesn’t seem to bother some Christian friends of mine.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul discusses (as my Bible labels it) “Be[ing] Sensitive to Conscience.” As it is 13 verses long and doesn’t really deserve be excerpted, I suggest you read it yourself. The gist, however, is about the idea of eating food offered to idols, and two views on it: 1) it’s okay and 2) it’s not okay. Paul says it’s okay: it’s not a sin. But he then urges the Corinthians not to eat food offered to an idol in the presence of Believers that view it as wrong. It says “their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (verse 7).
Watching and reading or not watching and reading certain movies and books can be a slightly different matter, but in some ways it’s very similar. Some things, overall, won’t really matter. At the same time, some people will be pro and some will be anti. And that’s okay. I don’t think it necessarily means a conscience is “weak,” but that each person is different. For myself, it’s not good to listen to music with lyrics I disapprove of. For Hannah, it’s not good to watch a movie that promotes rebellion against authority.
Does the “anti” or the “pro” make either one of us any more of a Christian than someone who listens to that music and watches that movie? I don’t think so. We’re both trying to glorify God in our choices against certain things.
All in all, it comes down to you and God. If you think you shouldn’t be watching that show, then stop. If you think you shouldn’t read that book, then don’t. But also don’t decide that someone else is less of a Christian because of their quality choices or less of a person because of their content choices.
If they’re a true Christians, they’re trying their best.
So do the same.
First two images from Wikipedia. Lord of the Rings image from Amazon.