Still addicted to mediocrity
The title alludes to Franky Schaeffer’s 1980-something manifesto against the general unseriousness of Christian art, broadly defined and understood. This is an evergreen lament for a handful of thinkers, writers, and artists who (wish they could) align themselves with Christianity.
The term Christian film has become synonymous with substandard production values, stilted dialogue and childish plots. Why is Christian film no more than a side note to modern culture? Why are Christians left behind?…
Rather than developing organically, the average Christian film is more pushy and sanctimonious than the global-warming agenda movies. Violence is almost non-existent, salty language never happens, unmarried people never struggle with lust and evil is never very bad, because showing various forms of sin is not allowed. By movie’s end, everyone is converted with no residual issues. Life is reduced to an after-school special with prayer thrown in for good measure. For me, this is where the dry heaving begins. …
It is a tough argument to think modern Christians cannot handle a simple kiss or rough language when God allowed Joshua to slaughter thousands behind the walls of Jericho. … Christian artists cater to us, give us what we want, what we prefer, and Christians’ expectations have tended to not stress biblical truth, moral clarity or technical achievement, but a watered-down, unrealistic view of the world.
The entire excerpt is here. It’s taken from a book-length work on Christianity and film: You Are What You See: Watching Movies Through a Christian Lens.
I don’t have a lot to say about this. I just found it interesting, particularly Nehring’s suggestion that, contra the typical assumption from within pious Christianity that it’s “the world” that gives people what they want and Christianity speaking hard truths of timeless value and eternal consequence, the cultural products of American Christianity actually demonstrate a fixation with producing predigested, psycho-spiritually unobtrusive pablum to people presumed to be too dense or incurious to want anything more serious or interesting or … relevant.
And I think southern gospel is inevitably implicated in this dynamic, at least insofar as so much of the sg world is built around stylized rejections of “the world” and oversimple accounts of salvation of redemption and unproblematic erasure of all pain and suffering and difficulty and confusion.
For me at least, gospel music succeeds most effectively when it slips of the short chain of these unimaginative preconditions. That this slippage should so often allow the music to break free from the narrow enclosures that so many artists and performers try to place around their music and its possibilities and potentials seems right and fitting.
After all, when you listen closely, southern gospel is a style of music - and emerges from a cultural tradition - that’s built around the celebration of a messy, complicated life of striving and suffering in a world of woe. The songs of this tradition always end with God in all sovereignty triumphing over the worldly messiness, and that’s undoubtedly how most folks would like things to be … it’s just not where most of us live, most of the time.Email this Post