Tag Archives: art

Captain America & The Berenstain Bears


My kids love the Berenstain Bears. Especially my oldest, it is currently her favourite show; as such my wife and I get to hear/see it sometimes as they watch on Netflix.

Sarah (my wife) pointed something out the other day which gave me pause. She pointed out that  the Berenstain Bears remind her of who we want to be, they challenge her to remember things like family time, or the importance of Dad teaching the kids to build their own kite instead of picking one up at the store. This observation led to a conversation that I would like to invite you all into.
Now I’m not saying The Berenstain’s are without fault (I agree that it’s unfortunate that Papa is generally portrayed as an idiot etc…), however there is a certain goodness there. They live in a family who loves each other, they value their community, they are encouraged to help out the left out kids at school, and I could go on

However these aren’t the kinds of families the media usually puts in front of us, when we think of families from TV we are drawn to The Simpsons, Modern Family, The Family Guy (All of which also feature dolt dad syndrome). Sometimes we get to Everybody loves Raymond etc. which is okay but thrives on dysfunction.

Not often do these examples call us upward.

Now I remember making countless arguments to my parents as a teen that the media I was consuming wouldn’t drag me down, and in large portion I wasn’t totally wrong. What I was saying is that watching “Half Baked” wouldn’t make me start smoking pot, listening to Limp Bizket wouldn’t make me want to “Break Stuff”.  They didn’t, but what about heroes and culture that challenges me to move upward? Not just that I can avoid being pulled down by, but that pulls me up? It’s rare.

It seems that now the majority of our heroes have become so “relatable” that we are pleased just not to stoop to their level. Anyone really look up to Dr. House? How about Jack Bauer, he’s cool but does he challenge you to be a better person? Iron Man?

Captain America has come back into the public consciousness lately thanks to Marvel and DC exploding the comic move market. The Captain is many people’s favourite Avenger. He has the worst powers. Why do people love him? Almost always, because he’s good. He’s a good guy who challenges us to be better, this was the function of heroes; they called us to something higher. If you are unfamiliar with the Captain America storyline the basic story (apologies to comic fans if I screw this up) is that Steve Rodgers was a small weak man, however he always was drawn to fight for the little guy and to stand up to Evil (specifically to join the war effort).  Eventually he is injected with a serum and achieves the peak of human fitness, strength etc. give the guy an indestructible shield and we are off to the races! But at his core he remains a fighter for those weaker than himself, he can make mistakes, but he always tries to do things the right thing. This is who our heroes were.
Berenstain Bears & Captain America
And then came Spider-Man (again apologies to my comic fan friends who know FAR more about the genre than I). In my understanding Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, to reflect a more human super hero. Specifically a more teen relatable super hero. When you read the Spider-Man comics (or watch the movies) you see quickly that Peter Parker is a conflicted guy.  He is still good and makes the unselfish choice more often than not, but there is always a conflict there. If he wasn’t Spider-Man he would be able to get the girl, get better grades, he wrestles with the selfish choice.

This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Art is at it’s best when we can identify with it, we all face these conflicts, we connect with characters who are conflicted too.  We want to see how they wrestle through and many (like Spider-Man) come to admirable conclusions. however the trend continues, we keep moving along these lines, making our heroes more and more relatable, more and more conflicted. Pretty soon we are left with the anti-hero, the “hero” driven by revenge, the “hero” who can justify any means, the hero whose brilliance is seemingly fuelled by depression and contempt, the hero whose motivation is rebellion, the hero who we don’t want to be like.

Art should be relatable, we should connect with it, we should connect with the characters especially the protagonist.

But what does it mean when our societies heroes are more tragically flawed than inspiring? What happens when they don’t pull us upward?

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3 Reasons to Relieve Your Creative Constipation


I had trouble deciding what to write about this morning…We all have those moments, call it writer’s block, call it “not feeling it”, I call it creative constipation.

However, here I am sitting down on the pot to work it out (nice visual hey?). Here are three reasons you should do the same.

#1. Creativity Breeds Creativity. It’s just the way this world works, the more you discipline yourself to do something the easier it comes. If I sit around all winter and then get up in June and play a big game of soccer, it’s brutal. If I am playing every week, playing one more game hardly takes a toll. If I get in the habit of eating healthy food, eating greasy fast food is an unpleasant prospect; the converse is also true, If I eat McDonald’s everyday, soon my body craves it.

Creativity is no different, the more you exercise your creativity the more creative idea you will have, the more you will want to create.

#2. You Never Know What Will Have Impact. I use social media intentionally. I use it to connect with people I know and that I don’t yet know. I think about things to post and blogs to write. I also sometimes just throw things up for fun. Do you know what got the most engagement and interaction of all the things I posted or blogged about in the last couple months?

Two things:The Grad Hair

  1. A picture of me from highschool, goofy hair and all
  2. “Tonight a drunk guy threw his hot dog at me.”

You never know what people will connect with. Throw it out there, risk yourself, there will be people who connect with some of what you share!

# 3. Creativity Breeds Creativity. Wait…wasn’t that point #1? Kind of. Creativity also breeds creativity in others. When people see you take a risk, create, share, be open; it encourages them to do likewise. It’s never easy to go first but, wouldn’t you love to see your friends come alive, be honest, be open and share with you?

Someone has to go first.


Why Don’t We Get Invited to More Parties?


Jesus was at a lot of parties.

This is something that has struck me over and over again this past year. It’s nothing new but for me it’s been a challenge as I think through my life, faith and art.  We are consistently reading about Jesus going to feasts, banquets and parties

Luke 5:29-30 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

And apparently enough so that people tried to use it against him (not that, that probably took much)

Luke 7:34The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

And it’s not that he was there that surprises me.  Jesus was very clear that he came to reach the lost.  It doesn’t surprise me at all that he would go where the people who needed him were hanging out…it surprises me that he was invited.

In the church we expect to be always be rejected, we assume no one wants to hear from us Jesus followers; that no one is open to it.  But maybe Jesus proves us wrong.  It would seem that these people who were not living lives that lined up with God’s ideals were more than willing to hang out with Jesus; and I don’t think it was because he was “a drunkard and a glutton”.

So the question becomes why?  Why did they want to hang out with Jesus?  Why did they invite him into their subculture?

I think it’s at least partly because he clearly wanted to be with them.

Most groups aren’t as closed as outsiders think.  For instance, did you know that every time I have ever started a mentorship program I have no problem finding youth?  Most students are desperate for positive adult relationships!  But yet, the vast majority of the adults are hesitant.  Why are they hesitant?  Because “the youth wouldn’t want to connect with an old person like me”.

A couple months ago, we hosted a metal show at our church site.  There were a ton of people there that many church goers would assume wouldn’t come to something at a church.  But yet there they were. They told me how “f’ing awesome” (my edit) it was, that we would host their scene.  I could also give tons of examples of bands that make a huge impact because engage people honestly in all kinds of venues; but you get the idea…

Maybe people aren’t as closed as we assume.  Maybe they are just assuming we are closed to them.

Maybe we would be invited to more parties if people KNEW we wanted to be there.

What has your experience been?


The Image In Creation


We were born to create.

Or perhaps it’s better to say we were created to create.

The Bible begins with the words: In the beginning God created.  This is the first thing we learn about God.  God is an artist.  Which is very cool.

But the Bible tells us more about this creative God.  Specifically it tells us that he made people “in his image”.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God made mankind in his image.  In a way that’s different than all the other animals.  Now, this is a thought that is not popular in our current cultural thinking.  By many it is seen as arrogance that we would assume ourselves to be better than cats, dogs and orangutangs…but God says something different.  He says that he CREATED man in his own image, and therefore that we ought to rule over the earth.  (Note: this is meant to be a caring stewardship not a ruling of an iron fist, if you are interested in things relating to the environment and faith you should really check out my friend Matthew Morris’ blog: www.theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.ca/ it s fantastic)

What I want to discuss is what it looks like specifically to be created in God’s image.  Because that is a huge statement!  What is it about humans that is the image of God?  What is merely our “animal” instinct and survival skills and what is the Imago Dei?  I think we can see lots of thing, but I would like to focus on the aspect of creativity. 

No other creature creates like humans do.  No other creature has a robust need for the arts.  We can train an elephant to paint, but we can all see it’s not the same.  Other creatures sing and we appreciate their beauty, but do they create?  I loved my dog growing up, but he never wrote me poetry or played me a song on the piano.  My daughter tells herself and sometimes the rest of our family fantastic stories.  They come from her mind, she creates them; we have no record of any other animals doing that.

To me this doesn’t seem like an evolutionary issue.  Humans don’t just create better art.  We don’t just have finer motor skills.  We have the Image of God, we have traits of the ultimate CREATOR.  Humans CREATE, we dream of things in our mind and create elaborate art to express it through dance, painting, writing, drawing, music, poetry and theater.  No other creature that I know of does this.


Too Much Pride to Appear Proud


 

Pride.  It’s something I struggle with.  I wish I didn’t but I do, it’s quite easy for me to either:

a) Think I would know how to do (almost) everything better

or

b) Try to save face instead of dealing with my hurt and/or failure

Now, I don’t have a desire to turn this blog into a personal confessional, but as I thought about what to write this week I felt like it’s an appropriate discussion to be had here;  because on the flip side we all face some measure of self-doubt.  That feeling that what we have to offer isn’t really much of value.  That is a portion of the reason I missed blogging the last two weeks.  There is a fear of putting your thoughts out there.  Like I have stated in many blogs, I don’t feel like an expert.  I don’t feel like I have wisdom that comes down from heaven, out my fingers and onto people’s screens.  It feels almost narcissistic to ask people to read thoughts that roll out of my head.

I blog because a couple people I know suggested I try.  I blog because a few people who I really respect (namely Brian Thompson and Michael Hyatt) remind me of it’s potential on their podcasts most weeks.

This is the same with most artists I know.  There is this mix, this tension (have I ever mentioned I think almost everything that matters is held in tension).  People who create need to create and need to show other people their creation, it’s a longing,  a force, a need, a something that’s deep inside.  But yet there’s this tension, because, you don’t want to be shoving your meagre thoughts/creations on other people, you don’t want to be bragging, you certainly don’t want to feel like a three year old showing off their craft to an unappreciative audience.

But I think that’s the pride.

I think there is often more pride in hiding yourself away in the safety of not trying.  Like I said, my pride makes me do two things, think I’m better or try to maintain face.  I think when I don’t speak, when I refuse to let my thoughts/art out, that’s the prideful position.

So, defeat pride.  Say what you have to say, create what you were born to create.

Share and see what happens.

…and comment so I don’t feel lonely.


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!


Blogging is hard…


I started the blog to try to ignite some meaningful conversations about the intersection of Faith and Art. It’s an intersection I have lived in for many years and think will always need continued dialogue. That being said, I have not written much (i.e. nothing). There are many reasons for this, but the largest is certainly a lack of clarity on a solid topic, so I am just going to try, the efforts will be stumbled but, every Monday I’ll post something okay? If you can comment and help get discussion going the posts will get better and better…okay?

Here are a few ideas, could you vote so I can make up my mind?:


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