Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writers block & other things that don't matter...

So I've been thinking about what art is, what it means, why and if it's important, how and if it benefits us at all.

And I still haven't found a solid answer.

As a recovering charismatic, I come from a world that glorifies art & self-expression. Our whole universe revolved around Christian music, Christian art, praise & worship, aesthetically pleasing stages with good lighting, intriguing videos introducing today's sermon, etc.


But what did we get? Lame bands with lame hair that were obviously trying too hard, all ripping off U2 and singing near-illiterate lyrics. Thomas Kincaid. Light shows. Fog machines. Smoke and mirrors. We got storefronts and warehouses with bare walls, with nothing to look at but the stage, the worship band, the preacher, and maybe a cross. Sometimes the worship leader or preacher pointed to the ceiling, because "It's all for him." And sometimes it was. But we saw the preacher or rock star pointing upwards & thought, "Oh, how humble."

That said, in the protestant world, especially the world of post-modern hipster Christians, artists are the prophets. Even if the music is now more hip, the lyrics more literate, the paintings more abstract, the preacher's glasses more dark-rimmed, the idea is the same:

Emotions = Spirituality.

If we feel comforted, it is God comforting us. If the combination of lights, droning keyboards, emotionally-charged monologues, and the perfume wafting from the cute girl next to us makes us feel happy or peaceful, then the Holy Spirit must be moving.


What happens when the worship band comes from Podunk, MS & only plays Vineyard songs from 1993? What if the speaker keeps stumbling over his words? What if the person seated next to you is-- not a bum, because it's hip to love bums now-- but some random, greasy-haired middle-aged man who hasn't showered in several weeks? What if-- God forbid-- we get bored? What if the whole experience is "dry?"

Then God obviously hasn't visited us today. He's left us for that one church the next block over-- the one with a worship band that covers The Cure.

Here's my problem: As a singer/songwriter, I'm supposed to entertain you. If I don't, then I haven't done my job. But what if I write some song that is good, honest, just, lovely, and of good report, and it bores you to death?

It just might. And both of us have to be okay with that.

Um, I don't know what I'm saying, and I rarely ever do. I think that's the point: Don't look to musicians, writers, or artists for spiritual guidance, because they probably don't have any to offer. They're looking for the same wisdom you are. If they're not looking for wisdom, they're just trying to find ways to tug at your heartstrings, which is extremely dangerous.

Just listen to their songs. Look at their paintings. Read their books. Challenge everything they have to say. Enjoy what's good, and throw away the rest.

But don't think they're going to show you grand visions of the Kingdom. Because they probably won't.