When Art Divides the Church
I ran across an article today, entitled “Let’s Stop Singing These Ten Worship Songs”. I’m not going to link to the article because I don’t want to give it any more attention than I already have. The article was bad enough—picking apart the artistry of worship songs and why they should be considered repulsive to the church. I get it—theology is important. It’s especially important when it comes to corporate worship. But the majority of the writer’s issues with these songs were merely preference-based.
If the article was bad, the comments were worse. You have both sides vehemently opposing one another. People were calling each other whitewashed tombs and hypocrites. It got pretty nasty.
Why is it that art seems to be one of the main sources of strife within the Body of Christ? Theological differences—often nit-picky and love-lacking—are bad enough. But art? Art is a reflection of the creative power flowing through the very heart of our Creator. It’s a chance to take part in revealing God’s nature to the world. A chance to inject beauty back into a fallen and hurting world.
But it so often launches us into fights with one another. We have worship wars. We have people leaving churches over art. We debate about styles and fashions. How could something so beautiful cause so much division and damage?
I’ll tell you this much. The people spreading vitriol in the comments below these articles certainly aren’t the ones creating the art. These commenters are critics. They sit at the dinner table and criticize each course—contributing nothing on their own. They don’t even bother to help clean up once they’ve tossed the meal others prepared onto the ground.
Critics don’t add to the conversation. They merely consume, and then spew their hate.
“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” – The Alchemist
Unfortunately, there isn’t too much we can do about the critics in this world. No matter what, there will always be critics. As long as there’s beauty in the world, there will be those who wish to tear it down.
We don’t have the opportunity to eradicate critics. But we do have the ability to eradicate criticism within our own hearts. We can choose to lift up and exalt others when critics seek to tear them down.
I’ll tell you this: You can either be a critic, consumer, or contributor. You can’t be all three.
We know the critic. He tears down. He’s frankly a jerk.
We know the consumer. He enjoys and, at times, defends art. The consumer is an artist’s friend.
But the contributor…the contributor is where hope is found. The contributor makes art and praises others who make art. He celebrates beauty with his work and his words. He adds to the conversation and encourages other voices to join in.
The solution to the problem of art dividing the church is for more to contribute. We contribute to the beauty, and we ignore the voice of the critic.
It’s so tempting to answer every criticism. It’s so tempting to defend our art or the art of others. But that just adds more to the echo chamber of division within the church. The critics won’t be swayed. And by listening and responding to their criticism, we make their voice matter. Our response to their criticism fuels the criticism even more.
So what do we do when someone criticizes the new worship song we wrote? We remain silent, and we write another one.
What do we do when someone dislikes the video we shot and edited? We remain silent, and shoot another one.
What do we do when people criticize our use of stage designs in our service? We remain silent, and design another one.
It’s true; there are things to learn from critics. Criticism isn’t entirely bad. But we don’t need to defend everything we do. We can listen, apologize verbally for their offense, but then unapologetically keep creating.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson
We don’t fight. We don’t hate. We create in response to the insatiable desire to create that God has placed inside each of us.
Art might always be a divisive force within the Church. It’s so linked to our soul—emotions, thoughts, and desires—that it’s doomed to be a bit messy until Christ comes back and purifies us all thoroughly. But it doesn’t have to be a divisive force inside ourselves. Create in spirit. Create in truth. But be sure to create.