Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Rock & Roll, etc... Probing POV
We launched an interesting and thought-provoking series on Christianity and entertainment last week with theologians Dr. Glenn Kreider and John Adair from Dallas Theological Seminary. If you're just landing here, you may want to scroll down to the photo of the CD and start at the beginning.
George Harrison wrote a song called "My Sweet Lord." At the end, we find out his "lord" is Hare Krishna. Todd Rundgren wrote a song called "Light of the World." On the cover of the album, he's sitting in a lotus position looking seriously Eastern meditative. Shake the mold off and flash forward to 2007 and there are any number of mainstream rock bands singing songs that could appear to the listener to be pointing to Christ (e.g., Nickelback). If I discern they're talking about someone/thing other than Jesus... in the context even of "salvation"... does it matter? Do I cut them off my play list because they're not dispensing the truth... or do I make the message what I want it to be and keep on rocking?
I believe that we ought to be redemptive. That Harrison was singing to Krishna doesn’t mean that I can’t sing the same song to Jesus. I think Paul in Acts 17 gives us a biblical example of taking words written to one deity and applying them to God. Humans often mean things for evil that God uses for good. That doesn’t minimize the evil, it doesn’t call the evil good, it is rather that God’s grace redeems evil. And I think God’s people ought to be active agents of God’s redemptive grace in this way.
Rom 1-2 seems to indicate that the Creator’s existence (his eternal power and divine nature) is clear, plain, and evident in the creation. There seems to be a sense of transcendence and divine reality implanted in all creation. That people seek for something beyond them is evidence of this. Love for another points to longing for something beyond the person. People are looking for “salvation,” and artists often express that longing quite well. Are they expressing Christian doctrine? They do seem to be expressing truth. Are they doing so intentionally? Almost certainly not. Can Christians hear/read the longing on a different level, with a different “meaning” than the artist intended? I think so.
John, you’re the movie reviewer, so I’m going to direct this next question to you. Should I care about where screenwriters and movie studios/producers/directors are coming from? Does their point of view make a difference? Or is it only my perception or my filter that matters?
I think their point of view definitely makes a difference, but it isn’t the only factor involved here. This gets into matters of interpretation, but very simply, you’ve got a director, the film, and you. Each of those elements will influence how you see a particular film, but the biggest determining factor is you. So you examine yourself: How do you respond to the images in front of you? Where do they cause your mind to go? How does the film make you feel? What are the roots of that feeling in the film?
But as the film and the director are also worthy of examination, then I think it’s necessary to ask these questions as well: What is the film trying to communicate through the story, the characterization, the angles, the editing, the color, the music, and so on? What do you know about the director and her personal vision that might be insightful for your interpretation of the film? Sometimes, we will have a strong personal reaction to a film, and these latter questions will help us to either pinpoint why that was or, sometimes, begin to cause us to change our mind.
To come back to that secular/Christian divide, if we take seriously the belief that all people are made in the image of God, and therefore all people reveal God to lesser or greater extents, then it seems to me it is never appropriate to simply write someone off because they are not a believer. This certainly doesn’t mean we have to see every film or listen to every band, but refusing to listen due to an author’s lack of faith certainly isn’t the kind of approach I would take to a non-Christian I just met. If that’s the case, then why would I take that approach to the art they produce?
Dr. Kreider… thoughts on this one?
I think the point of view does make a difference. I do not think, however, that one needs to know the artist’s worldview in order to appreciate the work.
I want to know the filmmakers’ point of view. By the way, the film itself is the best way to understand the POV. But don’t forget that the Christian, the one with eyes to see and ears to hear, sees and hears things differently than the non-Christian. The one indwelt by the Spirit has a spiritual POV. But sometimes those without the Spirit do see truth and even might present it well.
I heard someone say "you better guard what you view with your eyes and put into your minds... because you'll never get those bad images out." Isn't it safer to just immerse ourselves in Christian media?
The answer to this question coming soon...
(Photo by work the angles; see http://flickr.com/photos/ventana/94427402/ for restrictions on use.)
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