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Eyes Wide Shut: Christians Against Art

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.