Art is convincing and has the power to manipulate emotions in the viewer, such that the viewer's idea of a subject can be completely altered and transformed simply by the moving qualities of emotive art. Indeed, art has the power to put a thought in someone's mind without their permission.
I do not believe art is inherently bad. It can be used for positive or negative purposes; but, if anything, I'd actually argue art is inherently goodâas God created it for a purpose, and that is to worship Him.
Art manages to capture such transient truths of God that literature and thought simply cannot, it is a powerful medium of expression that the true artist needs to articulate their emotions.
When an artist touches on powerful emotions and skilfully expresses them in stirring art form, naturally that would affect the viewer. One could even say, manipulate the viewer. Manipulate is a strong word, mainly bearing negative connotation, and to use this word, I believe, one would have to judge the intention of the artist, for the artist's intention is the only difference between propaganda and personal expression.
But again, I'd argue propaganda is not inherently bad. It is simply pointed art, using the formulas of artistic practice to purposely convey a specific message.
The message of propaganda
The message of propaganda, I believe, is what defines whether it is right or not. If it is spreading a message of hope and love, then it is fine. The formulas of art are just vehicles that are used for the artist's individual purpose. If a car takes you to a bad place, don't blame the car, blame the driver!
What I do like about the 'secular' world's artistic expression is their attention to technique and method. They decide what they want to communicate and then study and produce to the highest quality an artistic product that is purposely designed for their specific message. Again, I don't think that their purposeful use of formulaic art is right or wrong (in and of itself): it's the message that defines it.
I think if Christianity were to employ the same strategic thought and excellence in quality to spread the message of Jesus, we'd be far more effective in reaching the lost.
I actually believe Jesus was one of the most convincing and convicting storytellers (narrative art), and even the Apostle Paul was incredibly persuasive in his arguments. Art is there to be used, so use it well!
The wisdom of a Messianic Jewish man
I had the utmost pleasure of enjoying dinner with a Christ-believing Jewish man who is a successful script writer for films. His energetic hand-movements, animated expression, dynamic voice and purposeful wording were all so beautifully Jewish and entertaining to behold, but he produced some nuggets of wisdom that practically outwork exactly what I've been talking about.
At one point in the meal (although there was much more talking than there was eating) my Messianic Jewish friend leant in and, with a glint in his eye, he proceeded to explain what he believed to be the most important factor to any successful artist.
He said an artist must NEED to make their art, it has to be something they are deeply and personally effected by and thus passionate about, or it will never succeed. A writer should need to write their story, because it's the only way they can express their emotions; and it's in this depiction of sentiment that they find release.
Learn the methods and techniques well, but an artist should always write from a personal place. Use the format to serve your expression.
Emotion is portrayed best when it has been experienced by the artist, so write from experience. One great technique to develop skill is the 'one for them, one for you' technique. Basically, this technique is the practice of creating art for public and private purpose. For every one piece of art you produce for a non-personal purpose, produce one for your own personal expression.
To the artist who reads this, I hope this is profoundly beneficial to your practice. Never forget the importance of what you do, art can construct an entire generation's outlook on a specific subject. Your message defines your art; so what is your message?
Daniel J. Mathew is studying a Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer in the youth ministry of Hillsong Church, City Campus.
Daniel Mathew's archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html