One of my pet-peeves is the attempts by Christians to make movies, music, or other forms of art wherein the underlying motive is to “witness” or get the Christian “message” across to the general public. For example I think of all the recent movies put out by Sherwood Pictures, the film company associated with Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. This is the group that has put out the movies “Fireproof” and the most recent “Courageous.”
I will say that these movies are technically far better than the ones put out in the 70’s and 80’s, when I was growing up. As I watched some of the dreadful attempts back then, I remember thinking, even as a teen, that this sort of drivel could be enough to consider renouncing my faith.
But even given their better technical quality present day, they still, in my mind, come across as heavy handed. Nothing is left for reflection. Nothing is left to mystery. Nothing is left to complexity. Everything is pretty simple. We are not asked to dig a little. We are not asked to see anything deeper. We are told which way to turn and which door to open. Our hands are taken and we are shown each “truth” as if by a tour guide. The “good” guys and the “bad” guys are fairly obvious. There is no subtlety.
I think Christians should quit trying to make art as a “message” or “witness” and begin making art for art’s sake—for beauty alone and nothing more. If there turns out to be a “message” in there somewhere, so be it, and good, but let such take care of itself.
Michael Kimmelman is a critic who writes for the New York Times. How much I wish the makers of the Sherwood films and other similar Christian artists would heed his words:
“That’s the beauty of the thing. Caravaggio’s hyper-realism, a magician’s conjuring trick, I have come to regard as a perfect metaphor for great art, which declines to make obvious its deepest truths, leaving us to decipher them if we can.”