If artists are going to help others create a beautiful life (should they accept that role, among many, as part of their life’s work), then a key element of that role is engaging others in a thoughtful conversations about the role of art in our society and its institutions, including the Church.
In case you missed it, I recently shared on The Grove Center for the Arts & Media blog some important thoughts from Jon Foreman about why Switchfoot won’t be singing any Christian songs. I want to share it with you in the hope that it stimulates your thinking by pointing out many of the myths and ill-conceived notions about art produced by Christians. Amazingly, this piece was originally posted on Tim Challies blog 10 years ago in 2004.
Jon Foreman points out “the schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. ” His words are as relevant today as they were 10 years ago. Responding to the idea that a book, a song, or a t-shirt simply can’t be Christian, Jon said,
To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more “Christian” than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.
Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot.
You see, a song that has the words: “Jesus Christ” is no more or less “Christian” than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge “brothers” who have a different calling.
How would you respond to Jon’s comments? As artists, how can we help others understand the flaws in “sacred vs. secular” thinking?
I’d love your comments and feedback.