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Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste?

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This article: Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste? is interesting. It says nothing new for those who have asked these kinds of questions before. I often think that to merely ask the question is to be on the right path.


Here's a thought/question: Suppose a Christian has bad taste in art. What does that mean in terms of his/her soul? Is this fact a pointer (or could it be a pointer) to something more fundamental?


Another thought/question: The article argues against a utilitarian approach to art. Though not well defined (it's a short article), the idea is that using art is not the same as receiving art, and that the former leads to bad taste and the latter to good taste. And then the author goes on to say that good tasted leads to less priggishness, and by implication, a better Christian and a better witness to the world. The potential problem I see with this (though I basically agree) is that it says to avoid a utilitarian approach to art so that one can then become a better witness, a better person, etc. It replaces one use with another. Perhaps a more interesting approach is to say that there are three transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. That these are eternal, and that to focus on only one or two is to lose sight, in some fundamental way, of who God is and what being made in the image of God is all about. Thus, saying that some Christians, while being champions for "Truth" but having poor cultural (read aesthetic) taste, is to say that they don't care about who God is as much as they claim (as much as their emotions and cherished self-images claim). This is not to harbor any degree of determining the hearts of any individual, for we can't and shouldn't try, but I think the overall question is valid. What are your thoughts?

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Some do. Some don't.

I couldn't get past the following:


What is at the root of this? I see three factors:

  1. We superimpose our fast-food culture on art.
  2. We have bad taste.
  3. We misunderstand the role secular art can play in our lives.




So, um, do non-Christians not superimpose our fast-food culture on art? Have bad taste? Understand the role secular art can play in their lives? If such headlines promise a critique of the Christian subculture, should the articles not at least couch such critiques in meaningful descriptions of how that subculture is distinctive? (If indeed it is). Unless its not, in which case the less sexy headline is "Do We All Have Bad Taste?" 

Edited by kenmorefield
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Sometimes I wonder how much richer my life would be if I got back all of the hours I've spent in "Should Christians ________?" and "Do Christians ________?" and "Why Can't Christians ___________?" conversations.


I realize I've started a lot of those conversations. And sure, they can be worthwhile conversations...


But more and more I hear echoes of a conversation that my friend Martin and I had with T-Bone Burnett back in 1992, in which he responded to a question about Christians by sighing, exasperated, and saying (paraphrased): "Why do we have to talk about ourselves as Christians? Why can't we just be people?"

Edited by Overstreet



Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.


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It is true that criticizing Christians “as Christians” can be easy, tired, resentful, hip, fashionable and/or of the flagellum equus mortuus variety.


The justification for it often goes along the lines that Christians should be held to a higher standard and ought to know better, given what they claim to believe about the nature of God, man and creation.  But, even if they ought to know better, that still hasn’t yet distinguished one’s subject matter from when human beings ought to know better.

That said, I do think this is still an important topic though, Tucker, particularly for how it is taught in the church.  It is, or it should be, a matter of theology.  That a theology of aesthetics is NOT taught in most modern churches is still probably the case.  Also, don’t feel bad for bringing it up again.  There has been a time when most older A&F members have either brought this subject up or participated in discussing it.  In fact, over the years there have been multiple times it has been brought up.

In fact, see this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread, this thread and this thread.  (And, I found these only after a cursory search.  I can guarantee you that I left a whole number of other similar threads off the list.)

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This is just my experience, but how Christians have engaged the arts is often quite different than how I've found non-Christians engaging art. Some do fall into the same traps, for instance, in this piece I think people in general fall into the first two points quite often (fast-food culture & bad tastes). However, that third point (misunderstanding the role secular art can play in our lives) is pretty specific to Christians and where I find myself diverging for the vast majority of fellow Christians. So there is a point to which the conversation is different because we do have a different understanding of the meaning of life that should affect in some ways how we engage with the arts and culture. I've encountered a lot of hostility and legalism in the Church toward art that I've almost never encountered among secular friends. 

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J.A.A. Purves! Thanks for those links. What great discussions. There were a number of people quoted in the threads that I don't see there original comments. Did something happen in the changeover or were those personally deleted? I was trying to find a comment by nardis not too long ago, and all those comments seem missing.


Where I am these days is there is poor taste every where. I don't think Christians have any greater propensity to poor or better taste than anyone else of a given culture. And I find myself in disagreement with the idea that this is a Church specific problem that can only be remedied by Church specific solutions (not that the article does this, but it does seem to be a common theme in many communications I've come across). When I read something about the ways the Church alienates artists, I find it easy to remove any reference to Christians or the Church and see the same article as relevant to the culture at large.


I am sympathetic to Mako's current Culture Care mission as a counter proposal to the Culture Wars themes. Maybe if we could start recognizing that we are part of a culture already. Because of this change can occur inside and outside the church. We can lead not just by example, but by interaction. We may not be "of the world" but we are still in it.


Or not. I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. I have my own failures that indict me and not enough successes to suggest reprieve.



Edited by jfutral


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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know if bad taste is a good way to put it, but I do see a lot of Christians put a lot of weight on lesser art that they view as Christian that isn't really all that ambitious or worthwhile next to some of what I see from the mainstream. This is true more in music than anywhere else - I know very few Christians that would regard "Persecuted" as the best film of the year, but still, rating DC Talk over Radiohead for '95 is just silly to me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are so many things that are problematic with this article, which is actually more like a blog post. There is very little substance and practically no context for any of the "arguments" being made. I often wonder with these types of "articles" if they are really written for social media and web trafficking intentions. If it is a cause of driving traffic then this author and the whole website are giving into the "fast food culture".


Christians engaging the world in any capacity will always be an important conversation and may even shed a lot of light on personal taste in "art," which could lead to some very fruitful conversations that yield growth and freedom.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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  • 3 weeks later...

The author means "evangelicals," right?  Or if he doesn't, he and the friends he's talking about are probably evangelicals, yes?


I don't think evangelicals are necessarily prone to worse taste than anyone else, but the question that he's wrestling with is primarily an evangelical one rooted in the specific cultural history of evangelicalism, and it would probably be helpful to be more cognizant of this, yes?

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Are evangelicals the only Christian group that does this? I mean, I guess the borders of evangelicalism are wide and porous to some extent. Do you reckon it's similar to the restorationist impulse that causes a group to name itself, for example, the "Christian Church?" (I'll never forget the first time I heard of that church - I met the officiant at a friend's wedding and asked him what tradition he was part of. He replied "have you heard of the Christian Church?" And I was like "well, yes...")

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I think evangelicals tend to be populist and because they are populist, they are not so sophisticated. Seeker-sensitive churches will not toss around terms like "kenosis" or "metanoia" because they know a visitor from a post-Christian culture will not understand what those words mean (in fact, I forget what metanoia means, I just know it's some sort of theological term...). The history of American Christianity is about the lowest-common-denominator when it comes to the Christian faith (and this has tremendous positives too!). In desiring to proclaim the Gospel clearly and understandably, I think evangelicals subconsciously attach that same desire for easy comprehension to their tastes in art and culture. 

He finds no mercy

And he's lost in the crowd

With an armoured heart of metal

He finds he's running out of odd-numbered daisies

From which to pull the petals

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:  In desiring to proclaim the Gospel clearly and understandably, I think evangelicals subconsciously attach that same desire for easy comprehension to their tastes in art and culture. 

Yes.  I think this is part of it.  There often can be found the idea that it must be bold and forthright, to make a stand for Christ, and all that.  This is prominent in some "warriors for Christ" mentality, and in some arenas it probably has it's place, but not necessarily when it comes to art.  This can lead to a misundertanding of art and a support for that which follows this line of thinking and a neglect of that which doesn't.  I once played in an evangelical worship band and I remember one of the musicians dismissing music that wasn't "praise towards the Lord" because "God cried out for Adam and Eve when they had walked away from him in Eden."  This line of reasoning made no sense to me then (but I held my tongue to keep from getting in a fight over it - the person was angry in tone) and makes even less sense to me now.  It also baffles me that a musician could have little or no regard for the fact that music can touch our hearts in such profound ways, and in this music with lyrics about life in general, and thus not necessarily praise music, can have the effect of making life more sacred.  But this is part of some people's worldview, with the emphasis on "directness" and the gnostic undertones.
Not of course that all evangelicals I've known, or know, have these beliefs, far from it.  But I've certainly observed it.
Edited by Attica
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  • 1 month later...

Zack Hunt gets it.



We’re criticizing bad art because bad art is a tragedy.

Both for the world and for a church with a rich history of breathtaking masterpieces.

Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean everything we produce has to have a salvation pitch thrown in.

In fact, it would probably be better if the art we make doesn’t have an overt salvation pitch in it. Why? Because to the extent that movie moments we see in Facing the Giants and Left Behind reflect real life, those two minute magical conversations reveal how little we think of the Christian faith in general and discipleship in particular.

In those magically unrealistic moments, the good news of the gospel is reduced to nothing more than a tacky sales pitch that just makes everyone uncomfortable.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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