Someone lent me Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis so I am reading it (seems an appropriate use for a book). The book is quite good, kind of what I’d call a postmodern apologetic. It’s the kind of thing I am interested in nowadays: people who are articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ for postmodern culture, and doing it in a humble, winsome way. So, way to go Rob Bell.
The reason for this post, though, is a quote from the book. He explains well the lunacy of labeling anything (music, art, etc) "Christian":
Something can be labeled "Christian" and not be true or good. . . It is possible for music to be labeled Christian and be terrible music. It could lack creativity and inspiration. The lyrics could be recycled cliches. That "Christian" band could actually be giving Jesus a bad name because they aren’t a great band. It is possible for a movie to be a "Christian" movie and to be a terrible movie. It may actually desecrate the art form in its quality and storytelling and craft. Just because it is a Christian book by a Christian author and it was purchased in a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean it is all true or good or beautiful. A Christian political group puts me in an awkward position: What if I disagree with them? Am I less of a Christian? What if I’m convinced the "Christian" thing to do is to vote the exact opposite?
Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.
Exactly. When someone asks me "is this a Christian band?" I always want to ask them "Do you have Christian plumbing installed in your home?" and watch the puzzled looks.
I would also say that "Christian" would make a great adverb (as in he does plumbing Christianly, he makes music Christianly). It would refer to the way a Christian does something, not the "products" she creates. Which lines up quite nicely with Colossians 3:17 – "Let every detail in your lives–words, actions, whatever–be done in
the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of
the way" (MSG). Let those things be done Christianly, in other words.
Recently we cut a few services from our church schedule, and thus a few "slots" for worship leaders and musicians to be part of church services. One of the things I told our arts community is that this was a great opportunity for them to find ways to express their gifts outside the context of a church service. Why do we assume that the only place to express a gift is in a church service? I basically told them to go out and find some gigs in coffee shops and bars, let us know when they were playing, and we’d come support them. Instead of assuming we are called to make "Christian" music by playing it in church services, why not learn how to make music Christianly, and do it where music is normally played and listened to? Why this need to re-invent the wheel, and put the label "Christian" on it? Why this urge to lock ourselves away in our own little Christian ghetto?
It’s hard to be salt and light if you aren’t coming into contact with corruption and darkness. Christian is a great noun, and a great adverb, but when we make it into an adjective, the results are disastrous.