By Layton MacCabe
Creativity is part of God’s character. As He has placed His image within each of us, He has given us a desire to follow Him by creating, acting in true imitation of our creator. Millennials and members of Generation X are privileged to live in a time of cultural appreciation for the arts and unparalleled distribution. However, like most good things, the devil has tried to warp the arts into his purposes as well, and this is often evidenced in what we consume.
Like me, I’m sure many of you are striving to achieve your creative dreams in this world. The beauty of the work of past artists, writers, speakers, and musicians who have gone before you have stoked your desire to share a piece of yourself with the world. You don’t want to let your life slip by without realizing the full potential of your God-given talents, and you know you can produce impactful work with diligence and dedication to your craft. The future is bright!
However, you are about to come to (or have already come to) a crisis that every Christian creative will face at some point. It happens in many places, affects different people different ways, and to varying degrees of intensity: The balancing act between remaining true to your faith and moving toward success in your creative work.
I have struggled with this myself over the past few years. To give a specific example, I had an opportunity to work as a ghost producer for a legend in the field of music production, a Grammy winner and the man behind the biggest names in the pop music industry. Though I did have a good experience and it did kickstart my burgeoning music production career, I eventually had a fallout with my employer over my refusal to work with profane music.
This was a hard time for me, as I couldn’t help feeling I had blown my one shot at making it big. However, God had other plans and led me into healthy creative situations with some awesome Christian musicians. I also know firsthand the sickening feeling of having to tell someone you can’t do a creative project because you disagree on a moral level with the content that would need to be created. It hurts.
Blurred lines are everywhere for Christians in the creative industries. At what point does a fashion photoshoot become less of a celebration of God’s gift of beauty and more of a sensual objectification of the human body? At what point does including profanity in the dialogue of a novel to provide a realistic record of what might have happened become something for mere shock value? Can a tattoo artist glorify the Lord in his or her work? I can’t answer your particular problems and dilemmas, as every situation and work of art is unique (that’s the nature of creativity!), but I can provide you with some valuable guidelines and considerations to take into account when making decisions about what you—and more importantly God—are comfortable with.
- Take a second to think about your audience.
Regardless of what you hear, your art’s value will be determined by others. You do, as an artist, have an obligation to make something that a particular audience will appreciate. However, Christians have an additional audience we must please beyond the critics: God. Art is by nature an extension of our thoughts, and the Bible gives us specific instructions as to what we should think about. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Good art exemplifies this list of attributes, and if your work falls out with one or more of these then I suggest taking a closer look at what you create. And don’t forget about the rest of us humans in the meantime… it would be selfish of you not to share your incredible, God-given gifts in a way that we can enjoy too!
- This is your moment to be a witness.
My family has been involved with many creative disciplines, whether that be modelling and fashion, writing, music, or a different medium. Every step of the way, we’ve come across professionals who are corrupt and backstabbing, mostly in secular circles, but also in Christian ones too, sadly. It’s a broken industry, and it needs the light of Jesus. This is your chance to be an example, so step out in faith. Don’t be afraid to say no to immorality, be encouraging rather than demeaning to colleagues and competitors, and share the truth you’ve found in Christ.
- Don’t move without looking to God first.
Prayer should be your first reaction to any crisis of morality. Especially in the instances of the blurred lines and moral relativity that occur so often in the creative industries—the only true way to get insight into your best course of action is through Bible study and prayer. I encourage you to look to God for guidance, even when you’re inclined to step away from a situation in your creative life that you feel uncomfortable with. Sometimes, it’s God’s will for us to shake things up and make a difference in a situation rather than merely saying no to immorality.
- Find a Christian mentor in your creative discipline.
Modern churches are one of the places in North America where the arts are flourishing the most. I’m personally very thankful for the guiding hand of experienced spiritual leaders and creative experts present in the larger churches in my hometown. I’ve had access to professional musicians, writers, cinematographers, and sound technicians who are willing to share their craft with me because of their dedication to passing on useful and beautiful skills to the next generation of believers. A mentor who has experience dealing with the problems you face as a creative believer is an invaluable resource, both for their advice and their guidance in your development as an artist. I think you’ll find, as you discover ways to use your skills entirely for God’s glory in the church, that it is much more satisfying than any alternative the secular industry can supply.
In closing, rest in the knowledge that I and many other like-minded Christians are praying for the next generation of creative believers to rise up to take their place in the church, in the world, and in history. Join with other artists in worship, offering your own humble, beautiful, unique offering: the return, re-gifting, of the shard of God’s unfathomable creativity He’s given you to use in His kingdom.