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Klavan On The Culture

Eyes Wide Shut: Christians Against Art

June 7th, 2013 - 10:37 am

An artist’s job — even if he’s a Christian artist — is not to sell Jesus, it’s to depict life truly. A Christian’s faith is that Christ lives in real life, not only in pastel greeting cards with Easter bunnies on them. Thus any honest and good work of art should be capable of strengthening a believer in his belief — even if it strengthens him by challenging him, by making him doubt and then address those doubts.

Art only goes wrong when it lies. Pornography is so deadening (and so addictive to some!) because it depicts human intercourse without humanity — something that never occurs in real life, not ever. Most bad art does something similar — and some good art includes dishonest moments that need to be confronted and rebuked.

But good art can be about absolutely anything and still lift us heavenward. My favorite example (and one of my favorite works) is Macbeth, whose slaughters, betrayals, deceptions and corruption make Game of Thrones look like Annie. At the end, Macbeth, who has committed every sin to win his kingdom, delivers perhaps the greatest nihilist speech ever written:

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/creeps in this petty pace from day to day/to the last syllable of recorded time,/and all our yesterdays have lighted fools/the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!/Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/that struts and frets his hour upon the stage/and then is heard no more: it is a tale/told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/signifying nothing.”

Is a Christian supposed to cover his ears and whistle Dixie while this speech is going on to keep his mind from being polluted by Macbeth’s empty vision of the world? Or should he ask himself whether Macbeth’s actions have not created this vision, whether Macbeth’s nihilism is not, in fact, a direct result of his immoral life, his violation of the rules of the moral universe?

If good art is truthful, than it can only destroy faith if faith is an error. If God is real, then even an atheist’s honest vision of the world will reveal him. Art is a risky business, like life, but both are worth it, and, when approaching either, the faithful should not let their hearts be troubled, neither should they be afraid.

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All Comments   (14)
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I watch GoT on Sunday nites because there's nothing else to watch, really. Its combination of gore/torture and sex is mostly offputting because it's a sensationalist distraction from a slow, meandering, bloated plot with only one interesting non-cartoon character you give a damn about, the dwarf Tyrion. Everyone else is a faux-medieval cartoon.

PS. Re: "Jesus did not direct his stories at the "church" of His day but rather to the world at large." Not quite. Check the Gospels. He spoke only to his fellow Jews, the "church" of his day. He never initiated contact with Gentiles, only healed them on request and then moved on, never ate with them or maintained relations with them, etc. He was not "inclusive."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. Klavan. When are you going to make another "Klavan On The Culture" video? If nothing else can I have your permission take your articles and make narrative videos of them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am a Christian (Lutheran) and I have no problem watching Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, but I didn't like Game of Thrones (I only watched the first two episodes).
The problem I had was that I could not suspend my disbelief. The medieval world looked like the medieval world because it was built on centuries (even millenia) of unique history. It was Germanic culture over a layer of Latin and Greek culture. The world of Game of Thrones seemed mediveal but had no equivalent history. It's hard to accept it as a 'real' myth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
After listing various depravities, Paul warns us: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Romans 1:32

So, being entertained by sinners sinning, is also a sin.

In the storytelling arts, what isn't fundamentally about "unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity"?

I've thought about these things because I watch TV and movies like most people.
I'd like to think I'm mature enough to take the good and not be corrupted, but that's like Christians in Paul's day who attended pagan feasts. They knew they could eat meat sacrificed to false gods, since an idol is really nothing. But Paul tells us to consider the example we're setting for less mature Christians: "And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." I Corinthians 8:11-12

Instead, "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8

You may be able to say GOT is honest, but it isn't pure.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the Klavan & Whittle segment "Is TV Worth Watching," Andrew said that "you have to choose what you like" because most of the shows on cable television are loaded with unnecessary nudity and sex scenes.

It's OKAY to avoid or not like Game of Thrones (as well as countless other shows) for that reason. Even Andrew has admitted that the sexuality in Game of Thrones is over the top, and some people just don't like to be bombarded with it every ten minutes. If I did, then I would just subscribe to Playboy.

http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-movies.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"An artist’s job — even if he’s a Christian artist — is not to sell Jesus, it’s to depict life truly."

I agree with that with the proviso that a storyteller can exercise the option of inserting a happy ending in a world with precious few of them. The reason why I believe that that is not dishonest is that the great redeeming fact of Christianity is the ultimate victory promised in the Bible when even Death gets tossed into the lake of fire. With the exemption of Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, and a few other scattered examples, I stay far away from Christina fiction because it mostly sucks from the standpoint of good prose and clever storytelling.

And GOT? Stunning. What a work. I used it just yesterday to tell a young English student of mine about the real logic of a Christian world view in a comfortable and natural way.

I love this stuff. Keep it up, bro, even though you're a bit of a voice in the wilderness. I'm an Evangelical and these guys drive me nuts with their stupid legalism in the guise of separating themselves from the world. I have a brother who reads only the King James Bible (for the wrong reason), and never let his daughters wear pants because of OT restrictions on women wearing men's garments. How weird is that? And does he have a positive effect on his environment for the savior of the world? Of course not. He just looks out of touch and insular. I love him, but I pity him as well. Anyway, well done.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reason I've stayed far away from GOT is precisely the many accusations of gratuitous sex scenes -- frankly, porn -- coming from people without any great moralizing agenda. Jonah Goldberg and John Podhoretz come to mind; they've made many jokes about it, including use of nudity in the background to spice up otherwise boring expository scenes. Oh, then there was the description (was it in Slate? Or Salon?) of the brave young actress who walked off the set when asked to do something that crossed a line for her.

In a world of finite time, these descriptions made my decision easy. I've spent my viewing time on other things. If what I have been told was wrong, I'd love to know. Is it possible the show has cleaned up its act over time?

I don't enjoy being one of about 17 people in the entire U.S. who does not know what's going on. But Andrew, I don't think you really addressed this reason for avoiding the show.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
RE "If Christians can’t look at that without losing their faith, they better not watch the news either, or look out their windows, or leave their rooms."

Personally, I prefer not to watch/read art that presents the harsher negativities of life, because my own perceptions of the world around me tend to be negative. I want someone to give me a vision of how life should (could) be, so I can carry on - a FURTHER reminder that what I see every day isn't all there is.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some time ago a guy named Kaven, Kloven, something like that, wrote the best definition of 'ART' I've ever come across. To paraphrase:
Art is a message to the future. Saying, "This is who we were. This is what we did. And this is what it was like."
Though we should also remember that lots (maybe most) of art is simply pleasantly decorative. Or entertaining (as one musicologist called Rock n'Roll, 'Ritual Dance Music). And there is nothing wrong with either concept.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As an artist, I can agree with the complaints. I also agree that the world is to be shown as it is as well as what it can be. Even within the Biblical word God shows out the world as it is and also for how it should be so as an artist I would like to do the same. A Christian isn't suppose to be someone that is fragile to the outside world but someone strong enough to face it and at times to contend with it when called for. Yet as an artist we have an unique perspective and relationship with God because He also is a creator. It is a shame when this isn't respected or just out right ignored.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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