Who Needs the Arts?
- Tuesday, September 21, 2010
All the casualties were now descending on the hospital we were at because it was the closest trauma center. Several years later, when I became a paramedic during college, I had a much greater appreciation for how absolutely terrible that event was and must have been for the devastated families, the horrified rescuers, and the survivors who had to live with the aftermath. All because someone decided to point his car in a direction it was not intended to go.
Some of you already see where I'm going, but hang in there a few more sentences. In all the coverage on the news after this event, the one thing I never heard was an attack on cars. "Cars are evil! I'm never going to let my family in the car again! How could you drive a car . . . don't you know cars are bad?" That would be ridiculous. Cars aren't evil. They can be used for evil purposes, but they are not in and of themselves evil.
It's the same with the arts. The arts can be used for good; they can be used for evil. It all depends on who is controlling them and for what purpose. Rather than a wholesale abdication of Christians from the arts, maybe there is another way?
A theologian named Calvin Seervald once said, "Whatever arena Christians withdraw from goes to hell." Think Hollywood is either there or well on its way? How about animation? How about the music industry? My wife's unsaved friend recently read her the lyrics of a song her daughter listens to that are so sexually explicit I don't hear talk like them from the biker gangs that fill up at the same cheap gas station we use. But that doesn't make the arts themselves bad.
So what's the answer to our question? It's that the arts are neither inherently good or bad. It all depends how they are used. They can glorify God, proclaim Christ, and point people to their need for a Savior, or they can denigrate His sacrifice, promote evil, and point people to hell. Which would you prefer they do?
Let's take a few minutes and talk about the power of the arts. A few years ago we worked with a very large church to incorporate some Christian art into one of their services. They tied it in with the sermon, printed it in the bulletin, and put it on the stage. A few days later we followed up to see how it had gone. Their answer told us volumes. They said that usually after a service it looks like it has snowed, because everyone drops the bulletins and walks out (and we're talking about thousands of bulletins). Except for that week's service—they did not have any bulletins to pick up. Why? Because people took them home so they could keep a visual reminder of the message that had been presented.
Here's another one. A huge church had a debate with an atheist published in a major news magazine. The cover picture for the article was the pastor and the atheist with a painting of Christ behind them. The response to the article? A deluge of calls asking where to get the painting of Christ behind the pastor. That's the big picture.
Let's get personal. I received a call from a director of a local foster care program that does an amazing job of working with some of the most abused kids in the county. He told me that one day a 14-year-old girl who had been in the program only a short time came in and announced her intention to commit suicide. They brought her into a conference room to talk to their staff therapist, and by "chance" they positioned her under a painting of Christ called In the Wilderness by my father, Ron DiCianni.
While the girl was trying to explain her decision, she finally pointed to the painting and said, "I can't explain it any better than to say this guy in the picture knows how I feel. He's had the same kind of day I've had."
When queried on whether she knew who the "guy in the picture was," her answer was "No, but I know he gets it." (He sure does!) And the therapist had the privilege of using that painting to point the girl to Christ. This is just one of thousands of stories we know where God used an arts-based presentation of the gospel to point someone to His Son.
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