Christians Need to Engage Culture Through the Arts

My Facebook newsfeed quickly filled Sunday night and into Monday with the wild escapades of Miley Cyrus. The now adult formerly-known-alternately-as Hannah Montana and the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus gyrated and shook body parts all over the stage at MTV's Video Music Awards. When that was not enough she took of most of her clothes.

At some point in the proceedings she donned a foam hand with index finger extended–the kind you see at almost every football game. When she was not mimicking male sex organ with it she was touching her own or nearly so.

For the past couple of days the web is crawling with open letters and blog posts exploring every facet. I have yet to read any of them, but I hope they are calling out Robin Thicke, too. Cyrus played the role of a stripper/prostitute but not without the willing assistance of Robin Thicke. In fact her grinding against his groin while he feigned total disinterest is a portrayal of power in a way that demeans women. "Honey, you can throw yourself at me all you can, but nothing happens until I say it does."

If Cyrus denigrated herself, Thicke encouraged it and denigrated all women by implication.

Perhaps, in light of our manifold critique we should ask whether critique all we have to offer? Our best play is defense until someone acts outrageous then call them out? The God of all creation should not be relegated to first responder status.

This received a surprising amount of approval yesterday on Twitter and Facebook:

Marty Duren ‪@martyduren

All award shows are showcases as to why followers of Jesus should not abandon the arts.
10:58 AM - 26 Aug 2013

Followers of Christ need to engage culture through the arts. The more we do not make good music, good films, good art, good books and good plays the greater the void will be filled by many who ignore God or deny Him. Those of us who are not gifted creatively should strongly support those who are.

Here are a few quotes from believers on art culture, culture and creativity. Hopefully they will encourage you as much as they did me.

"My faith is not what I write about or what I paint about, but it is the light by which I see." Flannery O'Connor


"If our lives are truly 'hid with Christ in God,' the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all that we do and say and write. What we are is going to be visible in our art, no matter how secular (on the surface) the subject may be." Madeleine L'Engle

"The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things to come, but in the sense that he tells his audience, at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts." R.G. Collingwood

"One of the ways apathy showed itself was in a lack of creativity in the arts…The elite abandoned their intellectual pursuits for social life. Officially sponsored art was decadent, and music was increasingly bombastic. Even the portraits on the coins became of poor quality. All of life was marked by the predominant apathy." Francis Schaeffer

"I think really, that as in all other fields, we must be Christian. That is essentially what a Christian has to do. There are some Christians who I have met in the media and their influence has been out of proportion to what it might seem to be, just because they were Christians and were known to be Christians. I don't think that a Christian has to be a particular type of Christian to be a diplomat, or a particular sort of Christian to be a doctor, or a particular sort of Christian to be a laborer. He has, in all circumstances, to be a Christian." Malcolm Muggeridge

"It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe–until recently–have been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all of our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning…I do not believe that culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes." T.S. Eliot

"A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself." Francis Schaeffer

Marty Duren is a former pastor, Christ follower, husband, father, writer, social media strategist and general provocateur who lives in Hermitage, TN. His blog, Kingdom in the Midst can be found at