Yesterday, we saw that Jesus wasn’t in The Hunger Games. He wasn’t there because the Church had left the arts, content to only produce self-affirming and self-important art.
We said there were three ways the Church could choose to confront the issue of the arts. Two that would not help the situation and one that could provide a corrective. Let’s look at the three possible solutions, but focusing specifically on the one that can change things for the better.
The Church could continue to remove itself further from culture, working to bury our head even further in the sand. As culture continues to grow worse, we could become more and more isolated from it and cocoon ourselves from all that is “worldly.”
On the other hand, the Church could simply insert itself into every cultural phenomenon, hoping to latch ourselves on to it in order to demonstrate our relevance. Every time a new fad comes along, Christians can fully embrace it and attach the Gospel to each one. When culture changes, we change right along with them.
Both of those measures, isolationism and adoptionism, can possibly be used in limited situations, but they cannot provide a lasting path for the Church relating to culture. We are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” The former two miss the mark in one of those areas. Isolationism refuses to be in the world. Adoptionism is entirely of the world.
Instead, the Church must choose engagement and recognize those in her midst that are gifted in the arts, encouraging them to pursue those giftings in the culture at large. Train them as mature believers, absolutely, but commission them as missionaries to Hollywood, New York and other seats of cultural influence.
Though the actual quote is somewhat different, C.S. Lewis has often been paraphrased as saying, “We don’t need more Christian writers; we need more writers who are Christian.” The sentiment Lewis expressed and this quote attempts to capture is this: adding yet another writer (or actor, filmmaker, painter, artist, etc.) writing only on specifically Christian topics will not be nearly as important to the Church and to the culture as having a writer who is thoroughly Christian writing well for all of culture on a subject about which they are specifically knowledgeable.
If Christ is Lord over all. He is Lord over all and that includes economics, psychology, technology, philosophy, literature, architecture, cinema, politics, art, sculpture, music, etc. We diminish His lordship, if we only seek to influence inside the four walls of the Church.
After yesterday’s post, I had a great conversation on Facebook with a friend from church who feels called to work in the entertainment industry. That is a difficult calling to have within Christianity. It is often assumed that to pursue that type of career, you have selfish motivations. Instead of encouraging Christians gifted in those areas, we often shame them.
This has to stop. We should recognize Hollywood for what it is – a mission field, just like every other place in the world. But it is a mission field that holds unparalleled cultural influence over the rest of the world.
Would it be difficult to be an artist/missionary in a bastion of anti-Christian sentiment? Absolutely. But difficulty should not dissuade us from pursuing opportunities as a Christian. If Christ calls someone as a missionary to India, that is a difficult and potentially dangerous move. The same is true for the entertainment industry.
The dangers and difficulties are different, but simply because they are different does not mean we should avoid sending those who are gifted in to that arena. The dangers should motivate us, not to be isolationists, but to send and pray even more.
Jesus is not in The Hunger Games and many other popular stories today, written and filmed, because the Church has not sought to make Him Lord there. The Church has either tried to ignore all cultural trends or we have attempted to read Jesus into places He is not. We either want to act as if the books have not been phenomenal best-sellers or we hope someone will write the Christianized Hunger Games.
Instead, why would we not want a Christian to simply write the next breakaway novel hit? The story may not have an altar call for the main character, but it may be infused throughout with a Christian perspective that causes readers to think more deeply and clearly about Truth.
Culture will not stop being influenced by entertainment because Christians remove themselves from it. It will simply continue to influence without a Christian perspective.
Culture will not start having a Christian influence because Christians uncritically adopt every trend. It will simply continue to influence without a Christian corrective.
The only way our culture can be changed is from the inside, from Christians who do not see the arts as Satan’s playground, but recognize creativity as one of the ways in which we have been created in God’s image. We worship a creative Creator and the arts are a way to display that to the world.
If the Church is able to embrace this vision, maybe the next cultural phenomenon like The Hunger Games will have been written by a Christian or at the very least will have been influenced by the growing movement of Christians in the arts.
That is a goal for which we can all be praying, even if we cannot all participate in physically making it a reality.