catapult magazine

catapult magazine


Good Art vs. Bad Art


Sep 19 2004
12:14 am

: I’m Danielle. Long-time lurker. First-time poster. (Originally from Sioux Center, so this place feels like home in a sorta-but-not-really way.)[/i:9d284ffb67]

Webb[/b:9d284ffb67], of Caedmon’s Call fame, wrote what I believe to be a brilliant article for about good art vs. bad art.
[b:9d284ffb67]Derek Webb – Warning: Contains Explicit Lyrics[/b:9d284ffb67] by Mike Parker
There was a time when the Church honored and supported its artists. Witness the Sistine Chapel, the Haggai Sophia, The Last Supper, Notre Dame Cathedral, Handel’s Messiah. The world saw and heard the art produced and supported by the Church – and the art was good.

“During the Renaissance Christian artists were on the cutting edge,” explains diminutive folk rocker, Derek Webb. "The rest of culture looked to the church to see what was good art. Thank God for “The Passion of the Christ.” One of the reasons I really like that movie is because it was so abstract. It was an art film. Regardless of its content, it was good art."

Webb laments what he perceives as the modern Church’s inability, or unwillingness, to distinguish between good art, bad art, and explicit art. We have, he sighs, lost the skill to determine what is beautiful, what is good, what is lovely.

“If there is anything that is true, it comes from God,” Webb asserts. “All truth is God’s truth. And that is not a New Age philosophy – that is a God-philosophy. That is not being relative. That is saying that all truth originates from God. If it is true, it comes from God. I think that rather than discerning what is good art, we have instead learned how to discern what is explicit art. And that’s sad, because nowadays there is no such thing as good or bad art. There is only explicit art and bad art. So if a believer is making art that is not explicit, that is really hard to categorized, he gets criticized for it.”

Webb insists there is no such thing as ‘Christian’ or ‘non-Christian’ art – only Christian and non-Christian people. Therefore, he reasons, Christian art should have nothing to do with its content.

“I know that is a radical statement,” he says. "But Christian art cannot and does not have anything to do with the content. Yet the only thing we feel okay defining as “Christian” art is the stuff that is the easiest to categorize. It is explicit. It is obvious. I think that is a cop-out. I think that is an easy road to take. Instead we should be equipping the people in our churches to discern good art, to determine what is beautiful, what is beneficial. We should be asking, ‘Where can I find people fulfilling even unknowingly, the creative mandate that our great creator God has given to us? Where can I find that throughout all kinds of art and culture to determine what is beauty?’

“Instead we encourage our artists to make art that is so explicit that we don’t even have to think about it. The good art that is coming out of our church musically is easy to identify, because that is the only stuff that is making it into the greater discussion of world views, and that happens in the general market.”

Webb insists the secular music industry is not Satanic. Rather, he says, it is without world views. It is a compromise of artists of all kinds of world views that all have one thing in common – they make good art.

“Eminem makes good art,” he says. “Marilyn Manson makes good art. Live makes good art. Those guys represent Buddhist and humanist world views, but they make good art so people listen to their world views. It comes in a great Trojan horse.”

There are however, Christian bands that also make good art and are therefore invited to join in the larger discussion of the mainstream.

“Switchfoot, P.O.D., Sixpence, Jars of Clay – we know who they are,” Webb ticks them off on his fingers. “These are the bands that are making good art and are therefore invited into that big discussion. I can’t stand it when my own heart, or my friends, or people I know who are Christian artists say, ‘Man, we have a mission to cross over and to get into that discussion but they don’t want to hear what we have to say. It’s ‘cause we’re Christians.’ They talk like they are martyrs. It is not because we are Christians that the world won’t listen to us. It is because we make bad art. The church at this point in history champions bad art. We hold our artists to a ridiculous standard by saying, ‘Your art is only useful in the church if it is explicit.’ But that is not true. We have to learn to define what is beautiful, what is good.”

?What are the things that we American Christians value in our culture," Webb asks. "And how is that different, and often ?upside down? from true Kingdom values? I?ve found that often success looks more like failure, riches more like poverty, and have found that real life often feels more like death, as the Christian life is very literally the process by which we are killed.?

Derek Webb speaks explicitly about his faith, his art, and his views on the subculture of the Church in America on his upcoming project, “I See Things Upside Down,” which releases November 9.

I live in the Nashville suburbs and work for an entertainment attorney / management company. 98% of our clients are somehow involved in the whole Christian Music world. I have had [i:9d284ffb67]so many[/i:9d284ffb67] discussions with people around here that back up exactly what Derek says.

A group we manage is about to release an EP, and the label is doing a sort of underground mainstream push… essentially because these guys are making good art. There has already been a little backlash from the fankids who think that mainstream radio play equals selling one’s soul to the devil. It’s quite frustrating on our end.

Anyway, I thought that the forward-thinkers here would appreciate the article.


Sep 23 2004
04:12 pm

Thanks for the article. I definitely feel this sort of change happening in the Christian community. The church is finally realizing that they are meant to be the innovators of culture, not just good “relevant” imitators of our culture. I hope Christian musicians are able to expand the realm of “Christian” feelings in the next several years because that’s what I think is so great about music—the ability to express complex emotions without the limitations of speech and the written word. And we know how tied Christians have been in the last several hundred years to the written word.

By the way, two of us in our band lived in Nashville for two years. Lots of good people there.


Oct 04 2004
01:47 am

Great article (above) regarding Christians coming out of their ghetto & (essentially) putting their creative light on a hill.

How do we start leaving our most comfortable art ghettos???

Many in general culture do not want to even distinguish between the good & the beautiful and (here I refer to visual art specifically)… the exploitative, the pornographic, and even…the poorly crafted pieces.

(Some of these same persons may greatly admire great Christian art of the past—-the great cultural innovators referred to in the article above. Yet…(at least in visual art) when have we heard (in general culture) any significant reference to quality and beauty as it relates to visual works? (Or, maybe when is the last time it was “politically correct” to publically judge a visual work as “good” “not so good” or even “bad”???)



Oct 04 2004
02:31 am

Maybe (eventually) the Christian community will follow if they see Chr. artists moving, shaking the culture. [b:02b04dcb73](like Mel Gibson did!!! Talk about seismic shock!) [/b:02b04dcb73]Maybe we should just leapfrog out of the ghetto & paint (sing, write, etc.) in the best way we can directly to and in the culture with as much time as we have to spare to do so.

QUESTION BELOW!!![/b:02b04dcb73]

(PS As I peer into the’Precious Moments’™ version of the Bible (check your Christian bookstore) I have another burning theological question…
[b:02b04dcb73]is it true that Bible characters do NOT resemble ‘Precious Moments’™ statues? [/b:02b04dcb73]I am still awaiting the ‘Precious Moments’ ™ picture of Elijah’s vision of the dead coming back to life…or the 4 ‘Precious Moments’™ Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Or, the ‘cutesy, ’Precious Moments’™ figures at the Last Judgment!!!))


Oct 07 2004
01:14 pm

Yeah, the dagger cast into the belly of paunchy Ehud would make a great precious moment! It was Ehud who was stuck in the gut so deep that the dagger could not be found, right?


Oct 07 2004
01:43 pm

Actually the fat guy was Eglon, king of Moab, and Ehud was the insurgent terrorist, i mean hero.


Oct 07 2004
02:35 pm

everything’s political with you, isn’t it? :D

i believe ehud stabbed the large king and fat closed over the wound. which would have made the sword irretrievable. mmmm ….


Oct 08 2004
12:49 am

Now that would make and interesting piece. “Precious Movements” of all of those times… it would be a nice challenge to Jeff Koons?s “Banality” work. I can see the potential.

See below for a picture of one of his not explicit porcelain figure.