January 12, 2005
Buy a Book
If you're like me, you've learned to cringe at the thought of consuming items with the modifier "Christian" (e.g., Christian book, Christian music, Christian radio, Christian movie, Christian mints -- yes, there are mints, with little Bible verses on them, "Testamints"). Some cringe because they have a cynical (read, in Tony's vocabulary, "well-founded") distrust of such self-conscious labeling. Others cringe because they find that most items so labeled are really just plain bad.
Case in point -- I was flipping through radio stations during the commute that I just love, and hit what I thought was a secular radio station. The trite, overly exuberant tune that assualted me generated this immediate thought: since when did they become a Christian station?
Then I realized I was listening to a commercial for a local car dealership. That is, sadly, the quality of much of what passes for popular Christian music. At least the godless heathen, with no hang-ups about hip gyration, can turn out something with a beat.
And the same goes for much of the rest of popular Christian art. It is just plain bad.
But some is really good. Much of it is not overt, but (and?) it contains the themes, the truth, and the hope that the faithful find in the story of God. I'm reading more of it, and interacting with some of these writers. One great place to get in on the conversation is Dave's blog, called Faith in Fiction.
If any of this interests you then stop by today, and check out this post, about a great young Christian writer whose work deserves more attention from those of us who claim to value good writing.
I just bought the book. Maybe you should too. If nothing else, check out Dave's blog.
Posted by Woodlief on January 12, 2005 at 03:00 PM
My lovely Queen (May She Live Forever) came home yesterday with a new calendar (2005) from Wal-Mart because we didn't get any free ones this year. She said that it was Christian and the pictures were really great except for one which she was going to cover up.
I was instantly curious why this one was so bad that it should not be seen. Most of the pictures were nicely done - Simeon holding Christ in December, Christ on the cross in April, etc. But this offending picture was the Statue of Liberty, with Jesus in the clouds above it.
It was so out of character with the rest of the images and so painfully tacky that I had to agree that we would find an alternative picture for that month.
I too am a horrible consumer as far as 'christian' goods go.
Posted by: King of Fools at January 12, 2005 3:37 PM
"Then I realized I was listening to a commercial for a local car dealership."
LOL Oh man, that is so bad, Tony.
Posted by: sally apokedak at January 12, 2005 4:33 PM
A friend of ours has had such bad experiences with Christian companies that when he looks up a business in the Yellow pages, he checks to make sure they are not listed in the Christian Yellow pages before calling. That's sad.
I'm not convinced that secular publishers see a greater percentage of quality manuscripts than Christian publishers. The slush piles are deep and stinky everywhere. But Christian writers seem compelled to be overly didactic instead of letting the art reflect God.
Posted by: doug at January 12, 2005 9:48 PM
Tony, I agree with Doug. At least, I do here at your site. I don't always agree with him, but that's because we're married. ;)
I imagine that the ABA publishes approximately the same percentage of good/crummy books as the CBA does, but because there are so many fewer books published in the CBA, the good ones seem rare indeed.
That said, every Christian writer--both aspiring and already published--should be striving to do work worthy of the One they serve. At Dave's rec--and yours--I'm purchasing both of Dale's books and spreading the word! Thanks.
Posted by: Katy Raymond at January 12, 2005 10:08 PM
I am especially partial to those figurines where Jesus is plying sports with children in his robes.
Surely the Son of God could come up with some modest workout gear.
I think this goes back to Christendom withdrawing from the culture (I woudl be interested in a dissertation on how Calvanism impacted the Christian in the Arts), and we as a whole are still trying to reaquaint ourselvs with the various crafts.
Posted by: Tim McNabb at January 13, 2005 11:09 AM
The thing that is even more disappointing than these things being in existence, is that they are there because people BUY this stuff! It's sad, so very sad.
But check this out, it's a book called "Surviving Christian Culture". It's a psudo-satire on the lifestyle culture your talking about, and how there is a contingent of believers happily moving beyond it.
It's at Amazon at:
Posted by: Cyberjazzdaddy at January 13, 2005 7:53 PM
I've had the same experience, to the point that I stay away from businesses and service providers that advertise themselves as Christian. Whatever happened to "whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus"?
Thank you for reminding me of the figurines! I wonder how many kids are scarred by getting these as gifts from grandparents desperately trying to "connect" in a way that "wins them to Jesus."
My wife decided that book would make a nice stocking stuffer for me. What's especially cool is that one of the co-writers is Stephen Baldwin, the actor who became a Christian recently. Good insight into what the Christian culture can be like to newcomers. Very clubbish, very clique-ish.
Posted by: Tony at January 14, 2005 8:19 AM
I'll take U2 and certain more overtly secular groups over most "Christian artists" anyday to inspire me, provoke my thoughts, challenge my worldview and spirituality, and to "rock out. However, as I've gotten older (read "am a Dad"), like your consideration of "Christian literature", Tony, I've bee willing to consider and realize some real spiritual benefit from some overtly Christian artists. Some are great, creative musicians as well as thoughtful poets (David Crowder Band), and some just give me great worship moments via decent music and use of the scriptures (Third Day and Chris Tomlin). And most of them aren't getting too rich doing it, I don't think.
I'm with you, though, because there is a lot of junk and/or "sound-alikes" out there in literature and music, that have little artistry.
Posted by: dave tuit at January 14, 2005 9:27 AM
I have to agree with you there Tony. Although there are exceptions to the rule in most cases. I have found very little "Christian" fiction that would be classified as good writing save CS Lewis. There are a few CHristian bands that were good, but they were around in teh 80's and underground for even the Christian scene, and there is one band that 's still around that's good. I rarely even bother buying anything with the label "Christian" unless it's for the kids and from the Big Idea folks. It's sad really when you get right down to it.
There are a lot of good non-fiction Christian authors but those really don't count, it's like saying there are good people writing textbooks.
Posted by: flesh99 at January 16, 2005 6:25 PM
I noted with some pleasure that Dave at "Faith in Fiction" makes mention of one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner. "Brendan" is one of my all-time favorite books, along with Lewis's "Til We Have Faces," and these are the types of books I recommend when I want to expose a friend to "Christian" fiction...or, to better express it, fiction that is informed by a truly gifted Christian imagination. But it wouldn't pass muster with many in my own church (Orthodox Presbyterian), because it has some swear words in it, and they talk about sex. Oh well...
I told my wife just the other day that I was becoming increasingly disgusted with -- even resentful of -- much of traditional evangelical culture. I think it does much to damage the cause of Christ by cementing in the minds of skeptics the idea that being a Christian means you have to leave your creativity and good taste at the door.
And the Catholics have the same problem. We visited the gift shop at a Trappist monastery this weekend, and trust me, they can be just as tacky as us Protestants!
Posted by: Sloan at January 24, 2005 10:06 AM