This is a post that holds more questions than answers or assertions, and it starts with one question: What is a Christian’s role if she is an artist? If she is a musician, a painter, a sculptor, a writer, does she have a responsibility that looks different because she is a Christian who is also an artist?

In other words, do I, as a writer, have an unspoken higher responsibility than a writer who is not a Christian? And if so, what is that responsibility?

I believe that art and artists can change the world.

I believe that artists can challenge how people think, how people see the world around them, how people see themselves, how people see other people.

I believe that artists can provide material to spark a conversation or spark a revolution. Not necessarily an actual revolution, but an idea revolution.

serving God & others through writing
serving God & others through writing

I believe that artists can change the world.

But what does that look like, really, if that artist is someone who loves Jesus?

You see, I am a writer. I write blog posts and I write novels.

And, I love Jesus.

And because of these two things, I wrestle as much with my art, my writing, as Jacob did with God: is it okay for a character to swear? is it okay for a character to drink? is it okay to write stories that include violence or reflect the culture in order to challenge the culture or engage the culture?

Is there a line that artists who are Christians are expected to toe and if so, where is that line and who draws it?

I’m guessing that there are as many opinions regarding these questions as there are people. But here’s a few of my thoughts.

I am not a Christian writer. I am a writer who is a Christian and I think these are two different things, specifically because my target audience is not other Christians. For me, because I want to influence, and perhaps even change, the world, my target audience is the world, Christians or not.

I want to tell stories that engage my readers, that entertain my readers, that challenge my readers, that reflect the world in which my readers live. I don’t want to write pristine stories that are removed from the life my readers live, the life that I live. Life is complicated. Life is hard. Life is messy. Because life includes the world. I encounter it when I go to the grocery store with my children or when I travel to visit family or when I say something to my spouse or my kids that is mean.

So, for me, because life is messy, my art is messy.

My stories include flawed, messed up people who make good choices but also make bad choices. They include people who believe in God and live their lives out with him and people who believe in nothing or in themselves or in the world or their money. They include people who change and grow and people who don’t.

And always, my stories reflect who I am, they include allusions directly or indirectly to faith, to God, to Jesus, to living in the world and not conforming to it. Because I cannot separate my faith from my writing, my Jesus from my art. Even if my art includes gritty characters who drink or smoke or curse or bully or threaten or seek to control or destroy others.

But, still, I continue to wrestle with my art like Jacob wrestled with God.

So, I’m curious. I’m interested in what you think about these things. What do you think is the role of an artist who is also a Christian?

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8 thoughts on “Having Faith in Your Art

  1. I believe an artist’s job, no matter their religious beliefs, is to tell the truth. Like you said, the truth is, people’s lives are messy. The truth is, plenty of Christians smoke, drink, gamble, sleep around, swear, etc. so why shouldn’t our characters, whether they’re Christians or not? After all, stories are the tales of flawed human beings being transformed, made better, through a series of struggles, right?

    So, if you tell a good story, and you tell it well, you’re giving people a glimpse, however subtle it may be, of the transforming power of Christ, and how God uses our struggles to bring us closer to Him, the ultimate happy ending.

    Right or wrong, that’s my two cents. Great post.

    1. Paulie, thank you for taking the time to read and leave such a thought-provoking comment. I love how well you put the idea that are job is to tell the truth and to tell a good story and, if we tell it well, we give others a glimpse of the transforming power of Christ and how God is always pursuing us.

      Thank you for chiming in. I appreciate your comment!

  2. I think that you have to do what you feel is right. I mentioned before, I will go to a movie that has “controversial” material in it, and pay for it. I have no idea if the producer is a Christian or not. I just want to see the movie because of the movie.

    1. I agree. I go to a movie or read a book because of the story. Is it something I’m interested in, does it challenge me, does it inspire me? And in my experience and as often as not, art with “controversial” material tends to inspire me through the story more than many Christian-themed art. And I think a lot of that usually stems from the character arc and how I am invited in to the character’s struggles and his choices and his change.

      1. I’m with both of you. Most of the time, I see movie and read books that challenge and inspire me. And unfortunately, I find that most of what gets classified as “Christian art” is shallow. I personally think God is big enough to speak through anything, no matter who made it.

      2. Yes, Meagan, I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about art that is classified as “Christian art”. I’ve found there are some movies and books that go deeper, but many Christian novels that I’ve picked up have been pretty shallow indeed.

  3. Your thoughts line up with mine, for the most part. Your faith should inform and enhance your art. It shouldn’t bludgeon it over the head and make it think its only purpose is to push an agenda. Good art, in my opinion, evokes emotion and invites readers (or watchers or hearers) to think about things in different ways. Good art reflects reality, and reality isn’t whitewashed. People make poor decisions. Not everyone believes in the same things. Life can be harsh. In the end, I think it’s important to write for yourself, with your personal convictions in mind, and trust that there will be people out there who will appreciate what you produce.

    1. Thank you, Meagan, for taking the time to read and leave such a thoughtful comment. I love what you’ve said here, especially the part that “reality isn’t whitewashed.”

      And I appreciate your words that ultimately, we create for ourselves from our convictions and trust that the audience that needs our art will find its way there.

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