The World Doesn't Need More Christian Artists - Part 3

By Joey O'Connor

Does your art move people to tears?

On a recent call with several artists, one woman stated, "We need art that moves people to tears."

I found her statement provocative and challenging, dismantling any notions of short-cuts and easey-peasey pathways to excelling in my craft.

So far, I've poked fun at Precious Moments figurines, Teletubbies and schlocky Christian art, but seriously, there's a lot more at stake.

Think for a moment about the art that has moved you to tears?

Mozart's Requiem? The candlestick scene in Les Misérables? The Sistine Chapel?

Are we Mozart, Hugo or Michangelo?

Maaaybee not, but whatever limitations we put on ourselves, those limitations are now ours.

My appeal is for all of us to aim higher. Much higher. Regardless of outcomes.

For us to consider how to create art that resonates so deeply in people's hearts that they begin to think and feel and deeply thirst for the God-stamped image inside of them. 

Let's circle back to Eugene Peterson. Because of his commitment to craft, he deftly opened a whole new frontier of God's word to millions of people who had previously dismissed the old "Message". His words were equally accessible to everyone in the choir loft and those huddled in the bar down the street. 

By doing our best — our very best — in creating innovative art, new imaginative works just might evoke soul-thirst, curiosity and deep hunger in the lives of those around us. We just might discover our art influences more people than we ever imagined.

I'll state it again...emphatically: The world does not need more Christian artists . . . the world need more artists who are Christian.


Because artists influence everything.

My wife recently paid me a great compliment. It wasn't the kind of compliment you'd expect. I recently completed a 600 page historical fiction novel that involved eleven years of research and three years writing many drafts. In the story, I killed off one of my main characters.

Over breakfast one morning, she looked at me and said, "I'm mad at you. You killed _______."

Thank you. A wee indicator I provoked something in her. She cared.

I'd like to suggest that one aim of art is to provoke people to care. To wake all of humanity from its slumber. To do so, we need artists who are courageous. Artists who are bold enough to let their art speak for itself with no qualifiers.

This is why you don't need the adjective "Christian" to say what kind of artist you are. Or to justify or explain your art or your theological position or the audience you wish to market to. Many in the Church and in church leadership simply don't get artists, so no amount of adding an adjective to what you are and do will elevate or validate who you are as an artist. 

If you find yourself misunderstood in your church as an artist, bless them. Move on. Stop trying to water plastic flowers. It just may save your soul.

The world is thirsty. It doesn't know where the well is.

Your art can help slake the world's thirst.

Your art can exist for its own sake. That's what the birds and lilies and flowers of the field do.

Your art doesn't need to evangelize. That's what pastors, preachers, prophets and God's people are for. It simply needs to tell a story . . . your story.

Story will always have an audience. It's the way our brains are wired. We are wired to tell, listen and to share stories.

That's what's at stake: The Story.

But you and I can't influence everything if we're simply telling stories to ourselves, singing to the choir parked in a Christian subculture looking for affirmation and validation for our "Christian art".

Christian subculture with all of its peculiarities is that little niche where the enemy loves God's people to park. Too often (not always), it's a Precious Moments-Telletubbieland of stereotypes, clichés, tropes, and spiritual platitudes ad nauseam.

Much of Christian art is so on the nose, so obvious, so "Gee, that Teletubby is holding a yellow ball," it leaves no room for mystery, symbol, or metaphor to provoke curiosity in drawing the viewer in.

If our Christian art, music and movies are no different than Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky tossing yellow balls to each other, then we're just telling each other the same Story. Keeping the ball to ourselves.

When the Church turns inward, creatively and historically speaking, that's when things begin to fester.

Kinda like the gangrene my doctor discovered during my burst appendix operation (See Part 1) . . .  

Let your work. Your art. Speak for itself.

If you must have an adjective, be a working artist.

That way, your art and your life will speak for itself.

It will tell the Story for the all-encompassing, jaw-dropping, spectacle of Creation-Fall-Incarnation-Crucifixion-Resurrection-Restoration-Story that it is.

Yes, it's a tall order. You have quite a Story to tell.

Your art is so much more than a one-word adjective.

So, don't limit yourself as an adjective to describe it.

The world needs you, your art, your story to tell the Story in as many creative and imaginative ways possible.

For heaven's sake, don't apologize for yourself or your art.

An apologetic adjective is a very weak modifier.

Just be an artist. 

That's enough.

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.