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The World Doesn't Need More Christian Artists: Part 2

By Joey O'Connor

Let me say it again, "Words matter."

Eugene Peterson, another great mind and literary craftsman like Lewis, often spoke of "precision" regarding words and the imagination.

The words "Christian Artist" are wholly imprecise.

Are they an Adjective+Noun combo? A Noun+Noun combo?

If they are a Noun+Adjective combo, that's poor English and bad theology.

Ask 10 Christians what a Christian artist is and you'll get a muddy mess of beige opinions trying to mix too many colors at once: religious art, different streams of Christianity, "prophetic" art, kitschy Christian bookstore art, art and movies for evangelizing, etc.

It is caddywompus Christian tribal insider-speak.

For those outside looking in, the word "Christian" is like a loaded revolver. It's a word that evokes a lot of strong opinions, many of which are not "safe for the whole family."

We are a peculiar people with a peculiar language that's frightens a lot of people. Ya never know when that gun might go off . . . it's a whole lot safer to keep your distance.

So, can we just speak like real people? 

An artist is an artist. Lots of different media and genres. And yes, even the word "artist" can have its own baggage with lots of negative stereotypes attached to it. 

But, on the positive side, one could say an artist is a person who is: A) Creative B) Imaginative 3) One who sees possibilities 4) One with an uncanny knack for envisioning somethin' outta nuthin'.

Tell people you're an artist and you just might be asked, "Really? What kind? What kind of art do you do? Can I see your work?" Now you've got yourself a conversation . . .

Now, tell people you're a Christian artist.

Who knows what the response will be?

A raised eyebrow? Furled lips? Silence? A ponderous Hmm . . .

Pause. Exhibit A . . .

Google "Christian artist". What pops up are Christian recording artists.

Ahh, now that explains everything. But not really.

More imprecision.

Christian music performed by Christian artists is a category. Not a genre. A box defined by both the adjective, its lyrical Jesus-Jesus content and the person who writes and/or performs it. Same with "Christian movies." 

Oy vey.

Look at original music genres. Jazz. Rock-n-roll. R&B. Classical. Blues. Even Gospel.

These are very precise genres. You know what the music is just by listening to it. Each genre does not need an adjective to describe what it is. Each stands out for its distinctiveness. It has a life of its own. Whether you like a genre or not, there is always fresh, original material coming out of it from the artists within the genre who create it.

Christian music and Christian movies, in most part, only make sense to their consumers. The prevailing culture looks from afar and scratches its head. No smiles from the Teletubbie Sun Baby. (If I've just confused you, read Part I.)

Remember the old Miller Lite beer slogan? Great taste. Less filling.

A very precise promise.

You will not get fat if you drink our very weak beer.

The Adjective+Noun combo of "Christian artist" promotes imprecision and promises nothing.

It is a loaded, top-heavy phrase that only caves in on itself.

That is the opposite of the Christian narrative. 

It is a very precise Story pregnant with promise.

Stay tuned . . . I'll explain why in Part 3.

Do you agree or disagree? Agree on some points, but not on others?

Leave us a comment. We'd love your thoughts on this peculiar subject.

You can stay connected with Joey on Instagram and his website. You can also email Joey here.

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