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A refreshing look at "Christian art"
I was lucky enough to snag an early copy of the Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse for review. I’ve loved and deeply appreciated Gungor’s music for a long time, and have also been exploring Christian art, so I was very interested in what Michael Gungor would write about.
The number one word I’d use to describe this book is refreshing. My car’s audio jack is broken (wah wah), which means no iPod or Audible for me while I’m driving. Which means that I’ve turned over my ears to the radio. For the most part, I listen to NPR, but I also been tuning in to music stations to escape my local public radio station’s fundraising drive. (I donated, because it’s crucial to support the things you love, but the endless appeals are making me crazy.) It’s amazing how catchy pop music is. Without even realizing it, I already know the words to at least a dozen pop hits. I ponder existential questions like what exactly the (I’m assuming) crude metaphor “blow my whistle” might mean. But even as I’m listening, I realize I find most of it empty. It may have its place for some people, but honestly, there’s hardly anything edifying in there for me. It’s just something to pass time time while driving down the road.
Gungor writes, “When art becomes a mere distraction from our first-world boredom, it will devolve into something less human. It will become animalistic and trite. But it will certainly be entertaining.” Pop music, anyone?
He continues: “Part of the reason people aren’t building cathedrals anymore is that we are too lazy and spoiled for the pain and the work that they demand from us. This sort of laziness leads to an artistic narcissism that creates art as a mere emotional expression of the ego rather than an intentional and profound re-ordering or re-imagining of the world.”
I love this. I am just as guilty as anyone for trying to get away with making easy art, and I love his call to fight for good art. To figure out what motivates me toward good art. Gungor would argue faith, doubt, hope, and love are the primary motivators — and I would agree. It also made me re-think the things I’m putting into my brain and soul — and to get my audio jack fixed stat.
Gungor also writes about his fundamentalist childhood, and the journey he took to break free from the belief system he grew up with and into something true and healthy. He writes:
“Fundamentalism is rigid and certain—like a prison. It leaves no room for doubt, no room for exploring or creating outside of the acceptable boxes. It is the polar opposite of creativity, the enemy of art. Fundamentalism is not limited to traditional religions like Christianity or Islam—there are fundamentalists in every stream of thought. There are fundamentalist atheists whose worldview is rigid with certainty. Even the “nothing in particular” belief can become dogmatic and arrogant. The fundamentalist’s worldview is one that is not open to the unexpected or the new.”
As I watch the political season right now, I see this fundamentalism on both sides. This is not faith. This is fear. And we need to address it in our lives.
I could go on and on, but I don’t think Gungor would appreciate me divulging all of the content of his book here. So suffice it to say, if you’re an artist of any stripe, I highly recommend this. It’ll take you back to your roots and has the potential to ignite the passion in your art once more.
Positives: I found myself thankful that there are still people out there trying to create meaningful, beautiful art. I also found it a call to action in my own life, in a number of ways.
Negatives: I felt like it needed just a bit more editing, both in content and design. There were parts of his writing that could have been tightened up a bit. It may have been my advance copy but in the layout there were so many little widows and orphans and poorly broken hyphenated words at the end of lines — my proofreader eye wanted to fix them all! Granted, 99 percent of the population wouldn’t notice — it’s probably just me!