Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Be, or Not to Be a "Christian" Artist

More and more Christians involved in the arts world are questioning whether or not they want to be labeled as "Christian." Can't I just be an artist who happens to be a Christian they are asking? A number of objections to being "labeled" have been raised:
The term "Christian" is found to be offensive by many people who do not like the conservative (and often politically "incorrect") viewpoints held by many who are Christian
Some calling themselves Christian have conducted themselves in an unloving or hypocritical manner with which some of us wouldn't want to be associated
An artist labeled as "Christian" probably won't be booked for non-Christian events

I'd like to encourage you, if you are an artist who has a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, not to be confused by the semantics. There are a number of artists out there who do not have that personal relationship, but who don't have any problem promoting themselves in the Christian market because they are "spiritual" and innocently believe that is the same thing as being a Christian. There are some performers I have met who have admitted that they don't have that relationship, but see a potential market in the Christian arts field, so they offer a performance of "clean comedy" or "spiritual songs" in the hopes of generating more revenue. So the label "Christian artist" might not even mean what you think it does to some!
The label "Christian" should be used to indicate the relationship with Jesus and a submission of our life to Him and His will as given to us in Scripture. Churches and Christian venues using the arts for outreach and hiring artists to help in that outreach, more and more want to know where a performer stands before giving them them authority to lead worship. It wouldn't be helpful for the furthering of the gospel, for example, to hire a "spiritual" actor to do a dramatic monologue from the life of Jesus only to have him comment somewhere in the monologue about being married to Mary Magdalene a la "The DaVinci Code".
There always will be Christians who "see the sin and not the sinner" and as a result of this narrow vision, will alienate the lost; there always will be Christians who sin; and Christians always will be persecuted for their beliefs, so all three objections to being labeled a Christian artist come as a result of people being people-- we all mess up.
If we are willing to abandon the label "Christian" for fear of what human associations it might attach to us, however, my fear is that we open ourselves to abandoning it for the heavenly associations it attaches to us as well. If our friend who is following a different religion would be offended, for example, if we shared that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and that the leader of their religion couldn't provide that, would we be tempted to abandon Him in favor of being "spiritual" rather than Christian and being more tolerant of another way to preserve the friendship? I believe that possibility is real.
As for me, I stand with Christ. If that means sometimes people throw me into the same category as a televangelist who makes an unwise comment or lifestyle decision, I can always explain that I have a different opinion. If being a Christian means that I sometimes take a stand that's not "politically correct", I'll back it up with the Word of God. If being "Christian" means that I don't get hired somewhere, I'll trust the Lord to provide in some other way.
I find that I can't just be an artist who happens to be a Christian, not if I want to see my art have the most impact possible for His kingdom. For that, I have to lay down all of my life and take up a new identity with Him, not just when it's convenient or beneficial, but always.

Check out a related posting under "Raise Your Hand" on the Willow Creek Arts blog at http://2007artsconferenceblog.blogspot.com/

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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