The Dangers of Safe Art


Well, last week you guys picked what was probably the hardest topic on the list, and I am new at this so cut me a little slack but…here we go!

Safe:

1. involving little or no risk of mishap, error, etc.: a safe estimate.
2. careful to avoid danger or controversy: a safe player; a safe play.

The idea for this post was inspired by the slogans of countless Christian Radio stations things like: “Safe for the Whole Family”, “ Safe For The Little Ears“, Safe And Fun For Everyone

And this certainly has it’s place. My wife loves that she can turn on our local Christian Radio Station (http://www.cjgy.ca/) and let our kids listen away. I remember the joy when I heard my 2ish year old daughter call out from the back seat “Daddy! They are singing about Jesus!” So this is not a rant against Christian Radio, there is some good in being “Safe for Little Ears” that being said…

God is not safe, as the oft quoted Mr. Beaver says “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” And great Art isn’t created to be safe either. It’s not that it can’t be safe in a sense. I have a lot of killer records that my kids listen to with me, but it’s not created to be safe. The BEST art calls for change, it speaks out, it stirs peoples souls, it rallies people. The best art has something to say, and a delivery method that delivers that message straight to the soul.

Art that pushes boundaries has always been a huge shaper of our society for good or for ill.

There are certain records that challenge what I know and how I think. Certain pieces of art that change my heart. That’s not safe, that’s dangerous and that is art.

Artists who change the world are not those who are primarily considered with keeping things “safe”, they are concerned with using whatever creative tools at their disposal to challenge and bring change!

And that is why, I am not sure the largest trademark of Christian art should be “safe”. Scratch that. I am sure that the largest trademark should not be “safe”. I would be more comfortable with Christian Art being known as:

Honest, Challenging, Prophetic, Yearning, Leading, Calling for Action, Real, Raw…Dangerous

That’s what I see in the book God wrote. The Garden was safe, and could have remained safe, however Satan was still there, and tricked mankind into inviting darkness into the world. Once darkness was in, we see murder, revenge, rape, destruction (all which is described in it’s ugliness, not hidden from camera), however we see a God who is willing to go to any length, war, sacrifice, etc. to get his people back. Then I read the Psalms, songs of a man crying out to God, railing out against God, Asking God to dash his enemies like pottery. And then I see Jesus, who is incredibly dangerous in his own way, subversive, telling stories of reversing culture, calling religious leaders out, heading into the temple with a whip and perhaps most dangerously letting himself be beaten and killed for all to see. When we look at the End times….those don’t look too safe either.

I just don’t see Artists or Christians primarily called to safety.

How about you? How do you view safety in Christian Art? I would really appreciate your comments, this blog is meant as a place for discussion not just one guys thoughts! Looking forward to engaging with you in the comments!

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About checkeredowl

Artist Management & Development + Video View all posts by checkeredowl

8 responses to “The Dangers of Safe Art

  • Sticks As Playthings

    Great thoughts, Andrew… I especially enjoyed your dissection of “safety” in Scripture, and your alternative trademarks for Christian media. I’d like to add “redemptive”, and ensure that “relevant” doesn’t become one. Whenever you declare your own art as “relevant”, you are basically declaring it “presently irrelevant” or “striving hard for something artificial” or “the symbiosis of worldliness & Kingdom”. I like your words better.

    • checkeredowl

      Thanks Chris! I agree completely, wish i would have thought of Redemptive!

      Relevant is such a strange word and should generally be declared by the other…or left unsaid. It’s such an important concept but agreed, not well self-declared.

  • House of Commons

    Hey Andrew….it’s Megan. In case you didn’t know. One of the mistakes some christian artists make is by trying too hard not to offend. Not saying that every song has to be offensive in order to be good, but it’s more like saying things that might offend in their lyrics is viewed as non-christian behaviour and I hate that because that’s when christian artists start to feel not as authentic as I’d like them to be. It feels sugar-coated sometimes. A few bands who don’t do this : Mewithoutyou, 5IF, Pedro the Lion.

    • checkeredowl

      Yeah, it can be a problem. I think more than artists, we have to legitamately blame “the man”. There are plenty of artists who have something to say and create honestly. However in the past the labels and radio stations weren’t really willing to take the risk. Therefore when people created incredible music in Wisconsin, you didn’t know about it.

      I think (like most art) things will continue to improve as artists are able to find their audiences online and gain exposure without being forced to go through as many profit-loss-fearing gatekeepers.

  • Keith Shields

    Andrew,
    Thank you for a thought-provoking quote. Where we often get into trouble is when we seek to put labels on who is “inside” and who is “outside” of the camp. We say this artist speaks from the perspective of “us” while this artist does not. I learn much from artists with which I disagree. Their art is likely pointing to something I need to hear.

    I remember listening to U2 in the early 80’s when the only place you could buy the “Boy” album was in small Christian record stores. They had been given the label of alternative Christian music. Fortunately they spoke to a broader audience than that. Their music was prophetic and was not safe. Would they be viewed as a Christian band today?

    Bob Dylan at one time made a profession of Christian faith and evangelical Christianity nearly ruined his career and livelihood. Listening to Dallas Green (City and Color), I am awestruck by his spiritual themes. I have no misconception that the man is a Christian but I certainly learn from this artist.

    Great blog. I will add a link on my own blog site.

    Keith

    • checkeredowl

      Thanks Keith. I agree the whole concept of “Christian” Art is a little precarious at the best of times. I for the most part agree with Derek Webb: “the word ‘christian,’ when applied to anything other than a human being, is just a marketing term.”

      • Keith Shields

        Derek Webb is right on many things. His music is also somewhat dangerous. He is too prophetic for “Christian” radio and too Christian for mainstream radio.

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