The Conundrum of Christian Craftsmanship

IMG_0952 When did Christian art become synonymous with poor craftsmanship? 

A well-crafted art piece—music, literature, film, a painting—doesn’t easily relinquish its grip. It never truly leaves you; when you tear yourself away, traces of its presence haunt you. Where is that vast vigor in Christian artistry?

There may be more to be in awe of in the majestic, sprawling guitar riffs of Metallica’s “Fade to Black” than in 10 repetitive worship songs droning on with neither artistry nor passion. Much of culturally revered music is not made for the glory of the God who enabled magnificent music to exist in the first place. It is still a phenomenal testimony to the beauty and grandeur of the great Artist Himself. 

It seems like beauty and grandeur are all but gone in Christian craftsmanship. In a world where relevance means far more than truth, mimics and cheap gimmicks are more the norm than the exception. 

When you sacrifice truth on the altar of relevance, don’t be surprised when the results are mediocre at best. That applies to any avenues into which we can apply our God-given gifts.

Christians are often too afraid to be original and creative in their respective crafts. They care far too much about what the world thinks of the radical message of the gospel than they care about infusing every piece of art they create with the splendor of that message. 

When fear of God triumphs over a fear of others, ultimate creative license is given. There are no limits to what someone with a reverence for God and subsequent strength through grace can do. 

Being a Christian isn’t a good luck charm to dust off every now and again. Being a Christian means you carry out even the most mundane tasks for the glory of God—the God of mountains and music and ceaseless creativity. How much more the passion of one’s heart? We of all people have endless reasons to create excellent art.

He is risen. We are free. What greater reason is there to compose crescendos and colorful canvases and captivating calligraphy?

What Makes a Good Artist?

landscapeWhen it comes to music, we all have our favorite singers and bands. But what really drives us to them? Often, it is difficult times, when we turn to music and discover the healing powers that lie within. Specifically, what makes an artist a good one? They should be able to communicate emotion not only explicitly through lyrics, but implicitly through the accompanying notes. We are moved by scores in movies, when there are no words in the music to indicate what we should feel. Soaring melodies and haunting harmonies stir emotions in us that have nothing to do with the lyrics. The music should also be versatile. When their music can both soothe you and psych you out, you have found a truly stunning artist.

Respect for fan base, including provision of band-to-fan interactions. Arrogant band members that hold themselves on the grand scale are difficult to appreciate, just as it's hard to respect someone who doesn't respect you. Down-to-earth musicians are a breath of fresh air in a music culture full of divas.

Possess respect for the art they create. Music is a precious thing. If musicians have no reverence for what they represent through their songs, everything else goes out the window.

If Christian, realize they have a responsibility to reflect Christ. They should be bold with the gospel in the way they present themselves as musicians and be faithful to resist the world, flesh and devil in their efforts with music.

Have a certain amount of ambiguity, leave some up to listeners. Not everything should be clear cut in their music. Cryptic lyrics are fun. The beauty of vague lyrics is that it opens much to listener interpretation.

Profanity profits nothing. You can have good music without throwing four letter words in for emphasis. Grab a dictionary or thesaurus and open your eyes to the reality that there are more classy, creative, and artistic ways of expressing yourself.

Not restricting to one genre. Some of the best bands are difficult to label. Are they pop, folk-rock, or simply indie? It may frustrate the music connoisseurs of the world, but often those artists are the best. It shows musical maturity, if you will, when a singer refuses to stick wholly to one genre. Even experimentation within broader music labels has positive results.

These guidelines aren't hard and fast. Excellent singers or bands exist with any combination of these. It's hard to not be critical of musicians who don't display any of these qualities, like a lot of mainstream pop music. The bottom line is music is music, there's no right or wrong answer, but it's also easier to appreciate artists who incorporate some of these elements into their art.