Faith Ministry

Christian Art: Allow paradox

What defines Christian Art? Lately this genre has illustrated or portrayed the principles of Christianity all the while remaining PG-13. Precious Moments figurines, Veggie Tales DVD’s, and pastoral paintings by Thomas Kinkade may immediately spring to mind. But all that is changing. Although some boundaries help, playing it too safe can stifle creativity. So what can Christian Art do better? And how can we define this genre differently? These are the questions we posed to a group of artists (who also happen to be Christian).

Angela Lynn Mitchell

A Children’s theatre instructor who admires the work of Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre

What defines Christian art?

I think an artist should focus less on telling a message. Christian artists should focus their efforts on deepening their relationship with Jesus, and out of that heart, they should strive for excellence in their craft. Art created this way will have meaning, and will impact its audience in a very real way.

From my perspective, the very obvious danger posed in “Christian plays” is that they often try to unveil the problem, pose Jesus as the obvious answer, and wrap it all up in an hour and a half. The reason that this comes off as “cheesy” is because real life rarely provides answers and wraps up in such a quick, tidy way.

Furthermore, the mystery of regeneration, of coming face-to-face with the gravity of one’s sin and being awakened to forgiveness and hope, is just that—a mystery. We do a disservice to the gospel when we reduce it to platitudes. Rather than superficially create answers, we playwrights need to allow paradox, confusion, and doubt to be part of the story (and maybe even part of the solution), because those elements are an integral part of life and faith.

The instances where I have seen overtly “Christian theatre” work powerfully is when it is used in a church setting, in tandem with a sermon. Theatre can cut to the heart of a matter, awaken deep longings in a viewer, and cause one to probe for answers. Questions can be consolidated, mysteries can be expounded upon, and the depths of truth can be explored.  And then, rather than trying to neatly package up the answers, the performance can end and the preacher can take over.

I have also been extremely impacted by theatre that deals with redemptive themes (such as forgiveness, regeneration, and hope) without being explicitly Christian. Excellence in one’s craft, rather than a “Christian agenda,” should always be the underlying desire of a Christian artist.

More in the series: What defines Christian Art?