Art and Faith

michaelangeloSay what you will about social media, but we now have access to unlimited information and resources.  Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.  How are we using the information and resources that we have been given?  Are we squandering it or are we taking advantage of what we have?

I’d like to think that I am taking advantage of these resources.  Of course, it could easily be a full time job just trying to keep up with all of the information that comes across my news feed, through my mailbox, or in the books, movies, and music that I amass on a regular basis.  But I do my best.  Learning is an important part of life, at least it is to me.  The big challenge with learning is that you can’t just leave it there, it’s not really worth a whole heck of a lot if we don’t do anything with it.  Learning needs to translate into doing.

A few weeks back, a friend posted an article on Facebook that listed some songs that gave hope for Christian music in the future.  I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, so I was not completely surprised by anything on the list, but I did discover some new music which I had heard about before but had never listened to.  Among the new discoveries was a band called Pedro the Lion, which is really the brainchild of David Bazan.

Bazan is the son of a pastor, like me, who was not really exposed to secular music until his early youth, also like me.  He wrestles a lot with faith in his music, especially his newer stuff that has dropped the Pedro the Lion moniker.  A friend recommended his album “Curse Your Branches” to me and I have listened to it with intrigue as I hear his constantly wrestling with ideas that were taught to him within the church.

I’ve posted in the past about faith and doubt as I have had my own struggles in recent years.  But Bazan’s approach is one that I admire because he opens up the door to both believers and unbelievers alike.  He gives permission to doubt while not proselytizing in such a way as to hammer the Bible over someone’s head.  His approach is different than my approach but what it does is invite dialogue, and I think that’s what art should do.

Sadly, much of Christian music has gone the way of secular music.  It’s no longer art, it’s simply selling records.  It’s not about sharing ideas and opening up the mind, it’s about finding what will sell best.  Of course, this is a generalization as there are bands that are still seeking to find ways to make good art on both sacred and secular sides of the spectrum.

Once upon a time, sacred music was the trend.  Think about the staying power of Handel’s Messiah.  It’s just good music (forget about the fact that he wrote it in a very short period of time).  Think about the Requiems of composers like Mozart, Faure, Verdi, and others.  The music spoke so loudly that you needed to hear the words.  That was good art.

Those of us who are people of faith need to get back to the place where we are artists, we are doing our best to be creative and present quality and excellence that people will want to explore our art.  We need people to stand up and take notice because they are astounded by the talent and ability that shines through.  It’s not so that people see how fantastic we are but that we acknowledge who the “giver of the gifts” is and where our talents come from.

Good art speaks to us, it moves us in a place deep down inside.  Good art has a way of communicating in ways that words can’t always express.  If its quality speaks loudly, the message that comes along with it will be heard, we will have no choice to hear that message, regardless of whether or not we agree with it.  That’s just what good art does.

I keep asking myself what my place is in this.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a song.  15 years ago, I wrote and recorded a CD, but that seems like a lifetime ago.  I remember my struggle at the time as I attempted to find places to promote it.  For those in the sacred circle (aka churches), I didn’t say the name “Jesus” enough.  For those among secular circles (coffeehouses and other venues) the religiosity of the lyrics were too strong.  In retrospect, I guess the music didn’t speak loud enough, but now, I have a challenge before me.  So, let’s see what the future holds.

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