Similar to my Recommended Reading post, this list collects articles (and one resource) that discuss Christian art, particularly the dilemma of how Protestant evangelicals tends to misunderstand art.
- “New Lyrics for the Devil’s Music” by Gerald Clarke. (TIME Magazine, March 11, 1985)
Reposted in 2001, this was one of the early articles to discuss the Contemporary Christian Music movement and some of its controversies. While some of the opinions mentioned sound old-fashioned by today’s standards (rock and pop music don’t have the same connotations they had for many Christians in the 80’s), this article gives a great overview of where CCM music started and some dilemmas CCM artists still have to wrestle with today.
- “Graphic Novelist Craig Thompson on Parental Censorship, Leaving Christianity, and His Epic, ‘Habibi’” by Michael Mechanic (Mother Jones, September/October 2011)
I briefly mentioned this article in my “Recommended Reading” post. Thompson, the author of graphic novel Blankets, talks about his struggles growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home and how his family’s refusal to recognize his gifts led him away from Christianity. We can argue about how often this sort of thing happens, but the fact is it does and this article gives some interesting insights about how it happens.
- “Faith Under Fire” by Chris Lutes (Christianity Today, September/October 1997)
Jars of Clay, one of the more distinct Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) bands out there, talk about some of the conflicts – criticisms from other Christians, conflict with non-Christians – when they toured with secular musicians. Some great insights into what it means to be a Christian musician trying to reach non-Christians as opposed to one trying to build up other Christians.
If interested for more, check out lead singer Dan Haseltine’s Christianity Today article about the band’s mission to work in both Christian and secular music.
- “Best-selling Author Dean Koontz Explores Catholic Values in Novels” by Tony Rossi (Catholic Exchange, August 1, 2009)
Dean Koontz, one of the most popular Christian novelists working in mainstream publishing, talks about his difficult upbringing and how his Catholic faith influences his bestselling books. An interesting look at how Catholicism provides a different perspective on art, and how even apparently secular stories can have Christian themes.
If interested for more, see Dean Koontz’s interview on the World Over.
Here’s another article, since the original one I cited (“Chatting with Koontz About Faith” by Tim Drake, National Catholic Register, March 6, 2007) has disappeared and I’m paranoid.
- “Switchfoot Steps Toward Stardom” by Steve Morse (The Boston Globe, January 9, 2004)
Switchfoot is one of the few Christian bands that’s been okay working in both the secular and Christian art world, and Morse takes a look at how they’ve been able to do that. The article is brief but provides some sound insights into how Christian artists can exist in the mainstream.
Also, check out lead singer Jon Foreman’s Huffington Post article written in response to fundamentalist Christians protestors who picketed Switchfoot concerts in 2014.
- “Sex, Death and Christian Fiction” (Speech by Simon Morden at the 2005 Greenbelt Art Festival)
Science fiction author Simon Morden lays out exactly what’s so problematic about Christian Fiction, and how few classic Christian works are really “acceptable” by Christian Fiction’s standards. A well-argued, fact-based critique of Christian publishing and a seminal wake-up call for Christian authors to take their work seriously.
- “Rocking for Jesus” by Dave Tianen (Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, June 30, 2006)
A deep look at the changing face of Christian music and some of the bands involved. This article really hits home the importance of diversity in Christian art and how easily we get hung up on appearances and what we’re comfortable with.
- “Behind The Lens” by Scott Derrickson (originally published in The Christian Century, January 30-February 6 issue, 2002)
Derrickson, a Christian filmmaker who’s directed many horror movies as well as Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, talks about some of the challenges being a Christian filmmaker in Hollywood and why Christian films have done so poorly. A soundly written, well-argued piece by one of the most relevant Christians artists in Hollywood.
If you’re looking for more, check out this interview of Derrickson in Christianity Today.
- “Evangelicals start push in the arts” by Eric Gorski (Boston Globe, July 26, 2007)
This article is more about how things are improving. Gorski interviews several evangelical artists in the new movement to be culturally relevant Christian artists working in the mainstream. Along the way, Gorski talks about Protestant Christianity’s uneasy relationship with the arts and how leaders like theologian Francis Schaeffer and scholar H.R. Rookmaaker paved the way for a better view of art which Christians are starting to embrace today.
10. “Who killed the contemporary Christian music industry?” by Tyler Huckabee (The Week, June 1, 2015)
Tyler Huckabee discusses the decreasing popularity of Contemporary Christian Music. Along the way, he comments on the struggle of being culturally relevant as a Christian musician, and groups like DC Talk that have done it well versus ones that have slid into irrelevancy.
11. “Why Are Christian Movies So Bad?” by Scott Nehring (Relevant Magazine, October 26, 2010)
Film critic Scott Nehring discusses the obvious issues most Christian films have — the lack of quality, simplistic endings — and gives some insights into how Christian culture became so isolationist in the first place.
12. “A Conversation with Beyond the Mask Screenwriter Paul McCusker” by Adam Holz (PluggedIn, March 24, 2015)
Paul McCusker – one of the all too rare artists in Christian entertainment who produces top-quality work – talks about his work on the Christian adventure movie Beyond the Mask. Along the way, McCusker talks about the importance of weaving faith elements into stories instead of shoehorning them in, and how evangelical Christians are more used to sermonizing than storytelling.
13. “One for the Books – Taylor Alumnus Publishes His First Book” by Austin Lindner (Taylor University, November 1, 2016)
Debut author Chandler Birch discusses his novel The FaceFaker’s Game, his history with Talyor University’s Professional Writing department, and his hope Christian authors can move beyond “tribal hangups” to create good art. A fascinating look at someone from the new generation of Christian artists and how they may change things for the better.
14. “Journeying from Taylor to L.A.” by Laura Koenig (The Echo, October 23, 2015)
Filmmaker Dustin McLean explains how he went from being a film student at Taylor University to a Hollywood director and screenwriter.
When asked about how he balances his faith and work, McLean explained that he doesn’t believe in “a division between sacred and secular,” a common term referenced in books on Christian art. Another great look at the new generation of Christian artists more willing to work in the mainstream.
15. “Why Christians Should Create” by Zachary K. Perkins (Relevant magazine, 2014).
Perkins talks about the tendency to believe there’s a strict division between sacred and secular art and then lists four reasons Christians should not only participate in the arts but be at the forefront of artistic expression. Simply brilliant.
16. “David Oyelowo: Christians Can’t Abandon Hollywood” by Tyler Huckabee (Relevant magazine, September 2015)
Acclaimed actor David Oyelowo — known for playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma — talks about being a Christian actor in Hollywood and what he thinks it will take for Christian movies to reach quality levels. He also delivers a strong argument for why Christians should get involved in making Hollywood movies.
17. “Meet the Man Behind the Bono and Eugene Peterson Conversation” by Andrea Palpant Dilley (Christianity Today, May 20, 2016)
Dilley interviews seminary professor David Taylor, mastermind of Fuller Studio’s recent documentary where Bono and Eugene Peterson met at Peterson’s home and discussed their love of the Psalms and thoughts on Christian culture. Taylor and his wife (who has created many art pieces for churches and other groups) talk about their work to reconcile artists and churches, and their hopes (and difficulties) along the way.
If interested, check out my recent article about Bono and his faith journey.
18. “59th National Prayer Breakfast Keynote Address” (Speech by Randall Wallace, Feburary 3, 2011)
In this speech, screenwriter Randall Wallace (an openly Christian screenwriter who worked on Braveheart, We Were Soldiers and other Hollywood films) talks about his experiences as a Christian working in Hollywood and how he’s overcome trying times with prayer. Near the end, in the fourth to last paragraph, he makes an interesting comment about how he’s learned to share his faith in Hollywood.
19. Holy Ghost directed by Darren Wilson (2014)
I’d have preferred putting this on a separate list, but as far as I know there aren’t many films about Christian art and this resource is too good not to mention. This documentary is one by Wanderlust Productions discusses modern-day miracles and interactions with the Holy Spirit.
In the middle of all that, there are interviews with Christian artists – including Phil Vischer, Michael W. Smith, Lenny Kravitz and Brian Welch – who give their perspectives on the Christian art world and what role the Holy Spirit plays in their work. One of those interesting resources that gives you insights you never expected.