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As1: From the people who brought us Grace Hill Media

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I've just received notification of a new endeavor from Jonathan Bock: As1.

The As1 mission statement:
 

For centuries, Christians were vibrant Patrons of the Arts. The Church wanted the best artists of the day to tell their stories. In return, these artists were rewarded with generous commissions. This partnership created some of the greatest art in human history – painting, sculpture, music and architecture – that elevated culture, inspired generations and defined Christianity in a positive light.

But along the way, we walked away from our hard-earned place as a Patron of the Arts. We abandoned our involvement in the creative process. Artists somehow became an enemy, and in turn, they began to portray our faith in a negative light. As a natural result, culture moved on without us.

As1 seeks to restore the church to its historically traditional role as a Patron of the Arts.

Through our demographic size and collective buying power, we will unite to impact the culturally influential art of our time – film, television and music. As we have throughout history, we will generously reward the artists who tell our stories. And they will make more.

In addition, As1 seeks genuine relationship and renewed partnership with the Artistic Community.
Artists: you are not the enemy, and we were wrong for saying you were. As1 wants the greatest artists telling our stories again.

As1 – Unite For Good.


Frankly, I'm surprised that there hasn't yet been a Christian adult contemporary vocal group called As1.

Bock wraps up his appeal like this:
 

My goal is nothing short of this – I want to create another Renaissance. But the world has changed in the last 500 years and Patrons of the Arts are no longer rich guys in tights with a coin purse. Now, it’s the consumer – the paying customer. Alone as a ticket buyer, I can do little to influence pop culture, but if we work together, if we unite As1, we can change everything. And we will.

Let’s have a big, bold vision for the future. God is surely at work in Hollywood – I look forward to where He will lead us!


I'm always troubled by language like this: "Through our demographic size and collective buying power, we will unite to impact the culturally influential art of our time." But the line in this mission statement that worries me most is this: "As we have throughout history, we will generously reward the artists who tell our stories."

Our stories? As opposed to their stories?

 

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It's a good mission statement. But, I'm immediately skeptical of any church/evangelical funding in the film industry. One of the greatest problems we have right now is what the majority evangelical church views as art in the first place. It's not quite as simple as merely deciding that the church has left the arts or looked down upon artists, instead we've got our own subculture that produces it's own "art" and it's own "artists."

For something like As1 to succeed, I'm afraid they would have to be a little ruthless in excluding mediocrity (in producers, directors, actors, script writers, etc.). And excluding mediocrity is not something we've shown ourselves to be very good at. To label yourself specifically as a "faith based" organization involved in the arts immediately attracts the wrong element and encourages you to walk in the wrong circles; at least if you intend to produce quality.

It will be fascinating to see what they do. We'll have to pay attention to this.

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Jonathan Bock wrote:

: My goal is nothing short of this – I want to create another Renaissance.

But the Renaissance wasn't just about art -- it was about science, too. Influenced by Aristotelian philosophy (as filtered through the likes of Thomas Aquinas, etc.), both art and science paid unprecedented attention to the details of the world, to the details of the human body, etc.

Will the church be patrons of science? Will Christian *consumers* be patrons of science?

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Jonathan Bock wrote:

: My goal is nothing short of this – I want to create another Renaissance.

But the Renaissance wasn't just about art -- it was about science, too. Influenced by Aristotelian philosophy (as filtered through the likes of Thomas Aquinas, etc.), both art and science paid unprecedented attention to the details of the world, to the details of the human body, etc.

Will the church be patrons of science? Will Christian *consumers* be patrons of science?

This is a really good point. In addition, do we not see a subversion of Christian iconography often occuring in the Renaissance that reconfigures Christ as an image of humanity perfected?

Given the overt appeal to commerce, the end of Gopnik's very recent essay on Mormonism in The New Yorker is relevant here:

Then again, almost every American religion sooner or later becomes a Gospel of Wealth. Forced into a corner by the Feds, Young’s followers put down their guns and got busy making money—just as the Oneida devotees who made silverware for a living ended up merely making silverware. (The moneymaking activities of the major churches hardly need outlining.) Christmas morning is the American Sabbath, and it runs, ideally, all year round. The astonishing thing, and it would have brought a smile to Nephi’s face as he and his tribe sailed to the New World, is that this gospel of prosperity is the one American faith that will never fail, even when its promises seem ruined. Elsewhere among the Western democracies, the bursting of the last bubble has led to doubts about the system that blows them. Here the people who seem likely to inherit power are those who want to blow still bigger ones, who believe in the bubble even after it has burst, and who hold its perfection as a faith so gleaming and secure and unbreakable that it might once have been written down somewhere by angels, on solid-gold plates.

Edited by M. Leary

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I didn't even need to open the link to know that the promotional video would start with fast cutting between talking heads, all of them repeating the same catch phrase in front of a white background. Because nothing says "Renaissance-like rejuvenation of the arts" like the 10,000th "viral" video built from a played-out Internet meme.

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It's a good mission statement. But, I'm immediately skeptical of any church/evangelical funding in the film industry. One of the greatest problems we have right now is what the majority evangelical church views as art in the first place. It's not quite as simple as merely deciding that the church has left the arts or looked down upon artists, instead we've got our own subculture that produces it's own "art" and it's own "artists."

For something like As1 to succeed, I'm afraid they would have to be a little ruthless in excluding mediocrity (in producers, directors, actors, script writers, etc.). And excluding mediocrity is not something we've shown ourselves to be very good at. To label yourself specifically as a "faith based" organization involved in the arts immediately attracts the wrong element and encourages you to walk in the wrong circles; at least if you intend to produce quality.

It will be fascinating to see what they do. We'll have to pay attention to this.

Agreed. Not only would they have to work to exclude mediocrity, but the Evangelical Christian world is now producing plenty of art that is technically great but coming from what I would consider to be a wrong philosophy. I can actually see a bit of that philosophy in their websites promotion. It's this "us against them", "we need to take back the culture in the culture wars", "our art is a weapon for the church" idea. This mixed in with a bit of evangelical triumphalism to help attract people to their cause, which could very well attract Christians that will promote the philosophies I've mentioned.

It seems to me that they might be starting on a footing that will make it harder to create a system that understands and desires to make good meaningful art. They might be following in the footsteps of the Christian Music Industry and considering this to be good art when it's sometimes well produced, and mentions Jesus a lot.

Edit:

I do however like, and see hope in their acknowledgement that much of recent Christianity has largely neglected the arts and it's artists, and that this is something that needs to be remedied.

There is also some hopeful indication on the website that my take might be wrong, as seen below.

"Much of the failure of the Christian community with Hollywood is due to a severe lack of relationship. Christians (the outsiders) demand changes, alternate between threatening boycott or take-over, and dismiss a whole industry as evil all without ever taken the time to build any trust or friendship. It’s as if a stranger walked up, told you you’re fat and demanded you go on a diet. They might be right – but how would you feel? Again, it’s not that we’re wrong, but consider the ramifications of our righteous anger toward Hollywood. For decades, the creators of pop culture and the people who control all the pipelines of distributing entertainment worldwide have perceived us as the enemy. So is it any wonder, then, why pop culture has labeled us with a litany of negative adjectives?"

Edited by Attica

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I do however like, and see hope in their acknowledgement that much of recent Christianity has largely neglected the arts and it's artists, and that this is something that needs to be remedied.

I don't know how one would go about proving or disproving this statement, but it rings untrue to me. Even a cursory run through Christian media outlets suggests that Western Christianity of the last decade has been very engaged in the production of art both good and bad. I am hesitant to buy into the idea that Christianity has neglected artists for some reason.

The kind of art I am thinking of may not be as marketable or brandable as Grace Hill would like, but it is out there nonetheless.

Edited by M. Leary

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I do however like, and see hope in their acknowledgement that much of recent Christianity has largely neglected the arts and it's artists, and that this is something that needs to be remedied.

I don't know how one would go about proving or disproving this statement, but it rings untrue to me. Even a cursory run through Christian media outlets suggests that Western Christianity of the last decade has been very engaged in the production of art both good and bad. I am hesitant to buy into the idea that Christianity has neglected artists for some reason.

The kind of art I am thinking of may not be as marketable or brandable as Grace Hill would like, but it is out there nonetheless.

Interesting. In being an artist myself, and following Christians in the arts, it would seem apparent that many Christian artists at least "feel" neglected. Whether or not the church has neglected the arts intentionally, or just has discouraged certain forms of art making, or has simply encouraged a certain understanding of art at the possible exclusion of other understandings.

Many artists/musicians/writers consistently feel that the work they feel inspired to make is something that "the church" can range from being indifferent to, if not downright opposed to.

I do agree that Christianity has become progressively more involved in the arts in the last decade, but it's still a tough go for a lot of Christian artists that want to make something outside of the run of the mill typical fare. Of course the arts is tough in general.

Edited by Attica

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This article has a fairly positive spin on As1. I kind of liked this part.

The creators of culture have defined us because we’re not in relationship with them.” He feels restoring that relationship will allow for less of an “us vs. them” mentality and more of a partnership where Christians will be portrayed in a more positive light. It’s in relationship building that Bock sees the greatest challenge, but he remains hopeful, stating “We have a lot more in common than either side imagines."

Becoming patrons of the arts by supporting A-list Hollywood projects is one thing; what about well-meaning but not very well-done films? Bock acknowledges there are “a lot of Christians making movies right now and they’re not making great movies.” He sees the current surge of Bible-themed entertainment as a wake-up call. “Guys like Will Smith, Steven Spielberg…are now your competition, so you better step up your game.” But he doesn’t expect fledgling Christian filmmakers to do it alone. “What we need to do as a community,” he muses, “is getting back again to building up artists who can take their own rightful place in that pantheon of artists and go toe to toe with them.” Meanwhile, what’s his response to a ‘not great’ movie? “If it’s mostly good, I think we just say ‘good try, we’re still supporting this. We’re going to count on the fact that the next go-round you’re gonna do an even better job.’”

As1 might turn out to be a pretty good idea.

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Never mind starting a new Renaissance, I'm not even sure how this "assignment" satisfies the As1 goal of proving the Christian consumer's power. Aren't ratings determined by who has Nielsen boxes, or whatever the current equivalent is? The rest of us don't necessarily matter, as far as scoring whatever points As1 is trying to score here are concerned. It's not like any of us would be *buying tickets*.

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If I could have been present at any historical event, I'd like to have been in Italy there when all of those great 14th Century Christian fundraisers got together and said, "Hey, let's start a Renaissance!" Who's to say it can't happen again?

I want to clip the sound bite where that blonde spokesmodel says, "Let's do it together... as one!" and put it on a loop over some Enigma-style Gregorian chant, punctuated by some orgasmic gasps. That might not start a 2nd Renaissance, but it sure would start a party like it was 1990.

Edited by Overstreet

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Our "first assignment"... is to watch a game show?

And then again. It might not turn into such a good idea. unsure.png

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I refer back to:

The As1 mission statement:

For centuries, Christians were vibrant Patrons of the Arts. The Church wanted the best artists of the day to tell their stories. In return, these artists were rewarded with generous commissions. This partnership created some of the greatest art in human history – painting, sculpture, music and architecture – that elevated culture, inspired generations ... As1 seeks to restore the church to its historically traditional role as a Patron of the Arts ... In addition, As1 seeks genuine relationship and renewed partnership with the Artistic Community.

And a TV game show helps this how?

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my review of the game show in question

As a former Bible quizzer--at one time, I could have recited the entire Gospel of Luke (and a few others) and identified every time the word "water," "body," etc. appeard in the text, among other things that seem pretty bizarre now--this sounds like amateur hour.

Edited by Tyler

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I refer back to:

The As1 mission statement:

For centuries, Christians were vibrant Patrons of the Arts. The Church wanted the best artists of the day to tell their stories. In return, these artists were rewarded with generous commissions. This partnership created some of the greatest art in human history – painting, sculpture, music and architecture – that elevated culture, inspired generations ... As1 seeks to restore the church to its historically traditional role as a Patron of the Arts ... In addition, As1 seeks genuine relationship and renewed partnership with the Artistic Community.

And a TV game show helps this how?

I was thinking something similar. It's also a curious choice for being a first assignment that influences our thinking on what they are shooting for, when there are so many other "first assignments" out there that are more consistent with their mission statement.

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I found my way here weeks ago, via a link in a Hollywood Jesus staff group on Facebook. (I read about As1 in the same place, before its official launch.) I wanted to comment then but it felt like gatecrashing. . . .

In the spirit of disclosure, I'm not a HJ writer. For 2 years I've helped to copyedit, only recently in the movie sections. And I've not joined or even 'liked' As1 on FB, despite HJ's warm praise. (If anyone reads this and is interested, just search As1 on HJ Live!) Because the ambivalence in this thread? I'll raise you, beginning with the cross on the fingertip. I'm happy for others to show their support so, but I feel personally uneasy with the cross as brand. I just do.

Moving to the model of Church patronage, I couldn't dispute the Renaissance as a timewhen Christianity is central to art. From Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes to Giotto's weeping angels to the classical forms that will resurface in Wren's cathedral - all that beauty and lucidity. But I can't quite embrace the nostalgia. The Renaissance is also about the mingling of Church and State; a piety interlaid with excess in European courts; the Council of Trent counting the ways art must glorify the Catholic Church; the Reformation rejecting so much soaring art a s idolatry. I've never heard of a golden age where the Church is central to art but innocent of censorship.

Then there's the goal to be at the helm of a neo-Renaissance. This is branding again and yes, it's easy to mock the vision (even before the 1st entry in the canon)

I do believe in a vital connection between art and faith and our reception of both. far from seeing recent centuries as spiritually bereft, I think I could trace its lineage unbroken from the Renaissance to now. That's the connection I care about.

So the call to support 'projects based on the Bible' because a) 'more Bible in tv and films = good' and B)'more of what we want means less of what we don't' and c)'high-profile Bible projects' are 'a free advertising campaign for our faith worldwide', that misses its mark with me.

In my experience, art that is explicitly Biblical is not truer to Scripture or more resonant of faith. (Maybe the inverse?) My whole literate life, I've felt scripture thrum through art, all the more palpably for being unannounced. More Bible-based projects might mean less of what I want.

Only, and this is a huge only, As1 isn't for me.

It's self-professedly for fans of Christian media. Churchgoing fans. It's for people who might not turn to 'secular' art for beauty or truth, who have been cautioned that Hollywood makes swill for the soul and that a Christian film is one whose story is a coating on the pill of didacticism. And it's for those who have already rejected those proscriptions, if only silently. Not me, who's consumed art in happy oblivion.

When I looked closer, my reservations fell away; they seemed pedantic and misplaced. As1's Facebook wall is all quotes about art and images. There's a mix of the sublime and the banal - the Pieta and Taylor Swift - just like in all our lives. There;s a smattering of discussion, which I hope will grow. Very benign.

The Renaissance is a weak analogy if you overthink it, as I do above. But Jonathan Bock chose a time when Christian art mattered and had universal appeal. The Renaissance makes his point because its works can be cited; they're part of the living heritage of both Christianity and Western art. If Christian culture today has an inferiority complex and a habit of self-segregation, the Renaissance is proof that Bible-based art can succeed on multiple levels. It happened once, it can happen again.

On reflection, As1 isn't about the pursuit of mediocrity or clipping the wings of art. I think it's about reconciliation: fostering a culture of mutual acceptance, leading an audience back into the public marketplace, making Bible stories viable - artistically and financially and also to Christian viewers. And of course it's about consumer activism, the simple, powerful act of buying a ticket (which upends the Renaissance model of patronage). Even a game show situates the Bible in pop culture and even a game show can be a rung on the ladder t o Aronofsky's Noah or to beautiful, evocative films that have not yet been imagined. I'm not As1, anymore than my use of Christian in this post is all inclusive. But I can still take its mission in good faith. I can still approve.

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Um, Josie - you're supposed to make your first 25 posts things like, "me, too!" or "I like beans," and save the intelligent, well-thought-out, well-expressed opinion pieces for somewhere down the road.

JUST KIDDING!

Welcome to Arts and Faith! And thank you for diving in with both feet! I hope you like the discussion here, and look forward to interacting.

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*Exactly*, and why I waited till the room was empty. Honestly, in real life I don't join conversations between people I don't know & deliver monologues! I'm not sure I have a very clear sense of these forums - I kind of came in through the back door. But thank you so much for the welcome and kind words!

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Hi Josie,

What CrimsonLine said, pretty much, and welcome to A&F! We're glad to have you.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and I wish I had an equally thoughtful follow-up, instead of a fact-check asterisk. (Catholic deflector shield on!)

the Council of Trent counting the ways art must glorify the Catholic Church

Um, what?

Is that a reference to the 25th session chapter on sacred images, etc., concerning the use of images in churches? Because I don't think the Council was saying anything particularly close to your paraphrase, here or elsewhere, as far as I know.

That's all. Carry on. Cheers!

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I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and I wish I had an equally thoughtful follow-up, instead of a fact-check asterisk. (Catholic deflector shield on!)

Oh, that's what "Catholic deflector shield" means. I've wondered about that for a long time.

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