Lou_carlozo_3It is really easy to take shots at Christian art. Often it is deserving, but I want to be careful not to do that until I’m sure that I’m doing a better job at creating art than those I’m targeting.  Make sense? 

Having said that – Lou Carlozo (see photo), a Music Editor for the Chicago Tribune was the guest blogger on Culture Watch and he puts out a real challenge to all Christian artists and in the process takes some shots.  Here is what he said:

It’s an outrage to me that so much “Christian” art is in fact artistically inferior crap. Why? First and foremost, I don’t think my Savior, the love of my life, would want His holy name spackled onto something so ham-fisted as most “Christian” music. Talk about violating the commandment of taking the Lord’s name in vain! Jesus as the marketing equivalent of Adidas. A brand name.

On a more personal note, I receive entreaties from Christian music publicists at least several times a month urging me to cover their artist because, it is implied, I am “on the team.” And I’ve had pieces spiked in leading “Christian” music magazines because I was presumptuous enough to slam an album as being mechanical, wooden, and backward thinking.

UNTIL CHRISTIAN MUSIC STRESSES ART OVER AGENDA, IT CAN NEVER BE ANYTHING BUT SECOND RATE (my emphasis). As a music editor at the Chicago Tribune, I have a responsibility to turn my readers on to the best art out there. And as a Christian, I have an obligation to tell the truth at all costs, as I see it. If it’s bad, awkward, mawkish art that Nashville keeps shipping to me like so many day-glo W.W.J.D. bracelets, what choice do I have? I would rather be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness than win the approval of any cabal that is convinced–for all the wrong reasons–that the majority of “Christian” music serves a noble purpose.

Michelangelo makes us cry by depicting the finger-touch of creation in a majestic image. Johnny Cash could break your heart by revealing the serrated edges of his brokenness. Bono makes you wrestle and challenges all assumptions that God is of the right or left wing. None of this is a “business model” to be emulated. These are ways of approaching art and life we are talking about, meant to be done with all the fear and trembling of someone trying to point the way to a higher truth while walking a narrow path.

Why does the Christian music industry so thoroughly believe that the way to do this is to TELL/LECTURE people? Maybe it has something to to with the mammon of income streams and mansion-house dreams.

For me, the true Christian artists worth emulating–including Emmylou Harris, Over the Rhine, Buddy and Judy Miller, Kate Campbell, Pedro the Lion and a Nashville rebel like Rich Mullins–they walk the walk. They SHOW us. Art before agenda. Beauty before the bully pulpit. My Lord, what a radical concept.

What do you think?  What are some of the best examples of stressing “art over agenda” that are making an impact?  Who are the Christian artists worth emulating?

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