Thursday, June 17, 2004

Piety v. Artistry

Fred Clark, a.k.a. The Slacktivist, is always a good read. He's especially interesting when he takes fellow evangelical Christians to task. He's been on a roll lately, first reprinting a piece about the empty gesture of "WWJD?" jewelry and accessories, and now he takes on the hollowness of "Christian Entertainment."
If the popularity of these dismal artistic and entertainment offerings could really be explained as merely the result of a lack of "Christian-themed" alternatives, then a happy and hopeful solution presents itself: create more alternatives and watch quality win out in the marketplace of ideas.

The first problem with this idea is that the subcultural marketplace of American evangelicalism is not a free market.

Anything not produced by and for the profit of the barons and bishops of the subculture's market-driven ecclesiology will be branded as dangerous, heretical and anathema. The latest album of shallow pop music from a "Christian label" record company is permissible. The latest offerings from U2 or from Buddy and Julie Miller -- sales of which do nothing to enrich Word records or Creation concerts -- are not. Left Behind, which enriches Thomas Nelson, has the official blessing of the gatekeepers of the kingdom. John Grisham's preachy The Testament, is published by Random House and is therefore not officially sanctioned reading.

Every day, I find myself more and more frustrated with the inanities of organized religion. Clark is a true voice of sanity in the midst of that otherwise furious noise.

(Slacktivist Classic: Torment the Mustard Seed
Since T.S. Eliot is regarded as one of the foremost writers of the 20th century, and since he was also a Christian, he makes a good candidate for a snarky-but-fun little game I like to call "Torment the Mustard Seed."

The Mustard Seed is a chain of "Christian book stores" in the Philadelphia area. You may not have a Mustard Seed near where you live, but you've likely got something similar, probably called something like "Family Christian Books" or "The Fisherman's Net" or worse. Despite the name "book store," most of the floor space in these shops tends to be taken up with knick-knackery, Precious Moments, greeting cards, WWJD bracelets, fish magnets, etc. Plus a very few books.

"Torment the Mustard Seed" is a very simple game. Pick some great work of Christian literature -- Donne's Holy Sonnets or The Brothers Karamazov, say -- then call up your local Christian book store and ask if they have a copy. Try to seem surprised when they tell you they don't have it -- "This is a Christian book store, isn't it?"

In honor of Eliot's birthday, why not give your local Christian book store a call and ask for a copy of his Christianity and Culture.

Good stuff, good stuff...)

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