In the world of academia, scholars partake in dialog through publishing books, journal articles, and book reviews in addition to speaking at forums conferences, and debates. By researching, reading the work of others, and then speaking-teaching-and/or writing, one contributes to the discussion. Students participate through group discussions, presentations, and on occasion by also publishing new research.
I have a theory that taking a similar approach to art would be both beneficial and enjoyable for Christians as artists and as students of the arts. Obviously, we cannot all participate in the discussion by creating art, but those who can should. Christians who are artists should do their best to participate in their field of the arts. Different kinds of arts are similar to different subjects in school. English and Math are separate fields of study, but there is some interconnectedness between the two, just as there is interconnectedness between sculpture and literature. As connoisseurs of culture, we are students of the arts. We each have our favorite types of art (music, movies, TV, photography, painting, etc.), and as we partake of our favorites more and more, we become more knowledgeable about the subjects to which they speak.
While I could attempt to explain this theory in more detail, I think it would be more beneficial to provide an illustration.
Topic: Domestic Abuse in Music
Different musicians contribute to the discussion in this field by composing and performing songs that speak to this issue. Each song represents a different take providing new insight. Some songs will educate about the realities of abuse in the home, others will challenge our preconceived ideas about the topic, others will make us angry, others will make us weep for the broken, and some songs might even be used by God to convict us of ministry we need to do for those affected around us.
So we listen to several songs on the issue, we discuss the songs with friends and acquaintances who have a similar love for the art of music. We question the intentions of the artists, we reflect on how the lyrics affect us personally, and we discuss how they relate to our faith. As a result, we grow in knowledge as students in any classroom setting. ***It is through meaningful discussion like this that we engage art. Simply watching a show or listening to a CD is consuming, not engaging.***
Example songs for this topic:
Martina McBride: Independence Day
Nickelback: Never Again
Aerosmith: Janie’s Got a Gun
Tracy Chapman: Behind the Wall
Christina Aguilera: Fighter
In fact there are so many songs that on the 3 links below, you can find these and over 80 other songs on the topic:
Now the question is if we are to view songs in this type of way, what does that mean for listening to music with messages out of sync with a Christian view, what does it mean for listening to artists who are “corruptive”, what does it mean for subjecting ourselves to non-Christian music?
It means that if we are to having a meaningful conversation about the messages portrayed in music (or any other form of art), that sometimes we should subject ourselves to things that will challenge our views. We do not need to try and listen to or watch everything out there that is challenging, and there are some things we should just stay away from based on personal preference, maturity, and ability to handle the presented material.
But viewing art in this way, learning from it, evaluating it, and discussing it is bound to have some profound effects on how we consume culture and how we understand it. It can also help us grow as believers.