-- 1 Corinthians 1:25
My fellow Thinkling Bill has an intriguing post up today pondering the popular question "Why isn't there greater Christian art?" Bill writes:
it is common to hear artistically-minded Christians bemoan the low state of affairs in Christian art these days. I sympathize with that position, and I haven't given up hope that things will improve. But I sometimes wonder (I just wonder, I am not set on this) if we should be surprised that the state of Christian art is low. It occurs to me that I'm low. Jesus is for losers, of whom I am the chief.
God has not chosen the elite of this world. And yes, I know that there have been periods of amazing sacred creativity and artistry in the church. But I sometimes wonder how Christian the state-sponsored efforts of the past that generated the great sacred art of our heritage really were.
I'm just thinking here. I'm not set on this. But, generally speaking, if God has chosen the lowly of the earth, should we be surprised when the art the lowly produce is, well, "low"?
First, I reject the notion there aren't great artists who are Christians out there. I just think they aren't making their art for the Christian art industry.
But Bill's thesis is very appealing, primarily because of the biblical angle he's taking.
I've often wondered why the actors in our fold are typically C and D-list actors (Judge Reinhold, Gary Busey, Stephen Baldwin, et. al.). And I think it's the "harder for a rich man" thing. Those guys clearly hit the bottom of the barrel and found only Jesus satisfies. Those still powerful, good looking, and successful don't need no savior. :-)
And of course we know that God has chosen the weak to display His strength, that he makes foolish the wisdom of the world.
On the other hand, part of the great DNA of salvation in Christ is that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. And, perhaps, no longer elite or simpleton?
I don't know.
I do know, however, that Christian church culture today is obsessed with appealing to the culture using the culture's own measures of quality and greatness, the culture's own approval ratings system. We are obsessed with cool. It was like that when I was a teenager; we church kids were constantly determined to prove that being a Christian was cool, that we had fun too, etc etc.
But, what if being a Christian isn't cool?
I mean, I think it is. And the Church is full of people who are cool. I hope I'm cool. But coolness isn't the point. It's not anywhere close to the point.
I think some of the modern church movements interested in rethinking, attracting, and appealing are misusing cool in the same way. It's not cool to wear a Lord's Gym T-shirt (unless you're wearing it ironically, of course). But coolness is still a selling point for the younger generation, and we orient our ministries and messages around it. Witness some of those ridiculous "Christian vs. Christian" church videos patterned after the Mac/PC ads. Every one I've seen can be summed up this way: We are the cool Christians; they are not.
I believe Jesus is for the cool. I believe you can be cool and follow Jesus. I believe there are cool Christians. But what if -- honestly, what if -- Jesus asked you to give up all your coolness to follow him? Would you still want to? What if following Jesus meant dressing up in a suit and having an Alfalfa haircut and listening to CCM? I mean, it doesn't, obviously (and thank God). But what if it did? Would having Jesus still be worth it?
The truth is, a great many of us desperately need to nail cool to the cross.
Life in Christ is about dying to self.
Matt Jenson discusses what he calls the "heresy of cool". I'm reprinting the whole thing because it's that good, particularly the bit on how the pursuit of cool naturally creates an unChristlike competition (witness the aforementioned videos):
Coolness is heretical. Or at least the pursuit of it is. This is because an inverse relationship exists between our attempts at being cool and our faith in Jesus Christ. The one struts, confident in his ability to do and say all the right things. The other limps, just as confident in his ineptitude, his missed cues and bad timing.
The professionally cool know the short shelf life of their product and are thus characterized by an ability to be just ahead of the curve. They seem to just be leaving the places at which the rest of us are just arriving. It all looks as effortless as it is actually rigorous. That is to say, it’s hard work being cool. And a funny kind of hard work to boot, because it’s not allowed to look hard.
Now some of being cool is simply a function of liking the right things at the right times. So you have the strange phenomenon of someone’s dad being suddenly, surprisingly cool this summer in plaid shorts – last year’s joke at the 4th of July BBQ is this year’s hipster uniform. Plenty of times we happen to like an album, only to find that doing so puts us in with the in crowd. This is accidental coolness.
But there’s that other kind, too, the kind that – admit it – you really care about. And let’s cast the net wide. This is not just your kid’s problem. It’s yours, too. And, okay, mine. I say all this in self-incrimination.
In this second sense, ‘cool’ is shorthand for ‘liked’. Most of us work ourselves into exhaustion trying to be this kind of cool. It’s an ‘if only’ issue. ‘If only they like me, everything will be okay.’ And there’s the heresy. We continually face a choice: will we seek to establish ourselves by being cool, or we trust that God has established us in Christ? It really is that simple. In John 12, we learn that there are a group of synagogue leaders who were believing Jesus, but they stayed quiet, as they loved the approval of people rather than that of God. Again, not a question of degrees. It’s an either-or. In Christ, God has revealed his death-defying love for sinners. When I prefer to be cool, I nonchalantly let him know that I’d prefer the love of a fickle mass of opinion jockeys instead.
There’s an irony to cool. In a particularly pitiful season of wanting to be cool (not that long ago, I’ll admit), my friend Linus reminded me that, in its beginnings, cool was anything but. To be ‘cool’ was to be spurned, misunderstood, unpopular. That we can now mass produce and market cool – that is, that we can at once sell people the myth of their own edginess and nonconformity and at the same time succeed at selling everyone that message – is astounding.
Furthermore, what happens when I become cool? What then? I play a desperate game of king of the mountain, knowing that I’m always only one false step from tumbling to the bottom of the hill. Coolness is competitive, you see. Not everyone can be cool. And so for me to be so, I’ve got to make sure you’re not. Or at least not many of you.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a different game entirely. It brings stability, builds houses on rocks. And with the security of the love of God, we can concentrate on giving love rather than hording it. That’s what our obsession with being cool is really about, isn’t it? Hording love, all for ourselves, but always in the fear that it might be stolen. Well, when the love you’re given is secure, constant, unmatchable and unquenchable, you don’t worry. You give it away. And that’s, well, pretty cool.
(HT: Jim Skaggs)
Blessed are the uncool, for theirs is fulfillment and satisfaction in Christ alone.