At some point in High School, I stumbled across a book called “Eyes Wide Open” by William Romanowski. It may be a bit dramatic to say that Romanowski’s book changed my life, but I feel it’s completely fair to say that it changed my Faith significantly. As I mentioned in my last post, for the better part of at least two decades the Church in America made sure that their disdain for secular art was widely known. As a teenager who decided he wanted to be a film director, I found myself struggling to understand my place.
The Church would have me believe that if I had to go into show business (being a pastor would be the Christian thing to do… regardless of where my talents truly lie) I should only have a hand in films that were adapted from the Bible or possibly the lives of Christian saints. Depicting life or characters in any other context would almost assuredly lead to drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, or worse, backsliding. All I wanted to do was to create movies and images that resonated with people. As I had experienced it, Christian art had failed to do that and yet the Church was telling me that was my only option.
Enter “Eyes Wide Open”. In this book, Romanowski dared to say something that I had never heard before… That not only were Christians allowed to engage and interact with culture, it was our duty to do so. Romanowski’s reasoning comes from a passage in Genesis that is sometimes called, “The Cultural Mandate”. I mentioned it briefly a few posts ago. Essentially, the Mandate consists of God telling man to go to the ends of the Earth and produce, create, and as Romanowski says, to “do culture”.
God actually calls Christians to step out of their churches and their prayer closets and into their local multiplex. He not only gives us permission to listen to music that isn’t blatantly Christian, but asks us to listen to it critically; to understand what message the artist is truly trying to convey. God is everywhere, and, I believe, in everything. It’s our duty as Christians to participate in cultural conversations because God is hiding, waiting for us to find him and reveal him to the masses. We are doing God a grave disservice by choosing to hide in our darkened holes with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears.
The problem is, engaging in culture from a Christian perspective is hard andChristians got lazy. At some point the Church decided that living in the gray areas of life was too uncomfortable and difficult, so they chose to start casting some absolutes… All “R” rated movies are bad. Music that uses expletives is sinful. Stories without happy endings are immoral.
At some point we decided we’d rather hide from the world and all of their difficult art rather than interpreting it. We chose to seclude ourselves and speak our own language (WWJD, DCTalk, McGee and Me) rather than speaking to the world in their own words. As a result, the world has found the American church to be at best, irrelevant, and at worst… Well, judgmental assholes.
So what’s the alternative? Am I suggesting that we can say, do, and watch whatever we want with no regard toward our own well-being? Absolutely not! That approach is just taking the absolutes into the opposite direction. What I am suggesting is that no one said that being a Christian is easy. It requires effort. It requires knowing yourself.
I’ve re-written this paragraph a few times now. Originally, I was stating that as Christians, I believe we’re called to examine everything around us.Honestly… Maybe that’s too broad. If you clicked the link above, I talk about how some of us are called to live out our lives differently. I guess, it would be more accurate for me to say that I feel it’s my job to discover the redemption inherent in art that might at first glance, appear “sinful”. If you feel like God has called you to avoid questionable material, I’m certainly not going to tell you to do otherwise.
But… as an example of what I’m talking about, I’d like to show you a trailer for a movie:
Black Snake Moan contains cursing, nudity, and inferences of sex. But it also contains one of the most spiritually redemptive moments I can remember seeing ever put to film. It tells a hard, ugly, uncomfortable story but from that comes a sense of Grace and beauty none of the movies I linked to last week can begin to dream of.
Christians aren’t called to be consumers of art, or even critics. We’re called to explore it, keeping our eyes peeled for God all the while.