Tag Archives: honest

Descriptors of Goodness

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post by the name of “The Dangers of Safe Art“.  In it I explored that I don’t think “safe” is a great target when it comes to great descriptors of art.  In it I also suggested a few words that I think are much more compelling, words like Honest, Challenging, Prophetic, Yearning, Leading, Calling for Action, Real, Raw, in various comments and conversations afterwards people used other words like “Redemptive” & “Reflective”

It’s always much easier to state the negative (Art shouldn’t primarily try to be safe) and much more difficult to point in the right direction.  I suppose you could say…it’s less safe.  Nothing is easier than throwing rocks from a distance.  However just like good art, I think good blogs point to something rather than just criticize.  Criticism is easy and unless accompanied with hope is largely a waste of time.

All that to say, I am no expert but let’s start to build a list of positive descriptors of art; I’ll use some of the ones from my original post as well as some of the follow-up

  1. Honest – To say Art should be honest seems too obvious and cliche but yet…true.  Art is expression. Art is voice.  If it doesn’t reflect something that is true about the creator or how they experience life, the planet, other people.   Honesty doesn’t mean obvious, guys like David Bowie were famous for writing form other characters perspective, but it still contained an obvious piece of the artist and their thoughts on the human condition.  Artists can create in a multiplicity of different vantage points and use “un-truths” like satire etc. but it still needs to be honest.  Maybe it’s eternally true, maybe it’s honest in a moment, but it has to be real!  If the creator doesn’t believe the piece, why should anyone else? (Example: Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars)
  2. Challenging – Not all good art challenges us directly.  But I think the BEST art does in some way.  Challenges us to act, challenges us to understand, challenges us to have compassion, challenges us to challenge the system, maybe even challenges us to appreciate a new beauty. (Check out Silence is Shameful by Luke Dowler)
  3. Prophetic – This one is a little trickier, but I love art that paints a picture of where we could be, or what ought to be.  Pictures of good relationship. Pictures of hope.  Pictures of where I am called to go.  (Check out Under Bridges by Brave Saint Saturn)
  4. Redemptive – Redemption is such a beautiful word and concept.  Taking something that has been corrupted and restoring.  Reflecting the ugly but showing beauty and in doing so bringing freshness.  There is a lot of hip-hop that does this well. (Check out Wavin’ Flag by K’naan)
  5. Reflective –  This one is a little different.  It’s not a call to change.  Great art is reflective of goodness as well.  There is some fantastic art that not only reflects the human creator but also the Creator.  A painting of a flower, a sculpture, a photo of true friends smiling, a doll reflecting the innocence of a newborn.  Some great art simply acts as a mirror to take us out of our own heads and condition and remind us that beauty is all around! (Check out this video: http://vimeo.com/24456787)

What do you think?  What are some descriptors of goodness in art?


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!


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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