The topic had turned to hair â as it often does when my sister is talking â which led this family friend to describe his brother who not only has dreadlocks now, but has in fact completely adopted the Rastafarian religion, along with its lifestyle. As this friend explained his brother's complete conversion to Reggae music and weed smoking, one particular sentence stood out to me and got me thinking. Talking of his brother's new religion and lifestyle, he said: "It all started with the music."
It seems art is a very powerful thing. One of my favourite quotes by one of my favourite artists is something Brooke Fraser once said: "music has the power to put a thought in someone's mind without their permission." To sit down and read an outline of the Rastafarian religious beliefs and practices I think would be far less convincing than simply listening to the music and experiencing the art, because one's defences are down when relating to art.
Indeed, the very power of art is how the emotions and beliefs expressed in the artwork are so relatable to the audience. In the case of my friend's brother, what simply happened was he connected with a particular genre of music, embracing its sounds and concepts, and consequently he connected with the parallel crowd. As he assimilated with this crowd, he soon adopted the lifestyle of what that subculture (and in this case, religion) stood for. Who he was and how he lived his life had entirely changed, and it all started with the music he listened to.
J. Edgar understood this concept and utilised it brilliantly. Back in high school he was my personality study for Modern History, and with all the hype around the biographical film that is currently out, I thought back to what I learnt in year 11 and discovered an intriguing lesson from his life.
Long story short, J. Edgar started what we now all know as the FBI. Now pause. Think of all the images that flood your mind when you hear "FBI". The suave suits, the nifty gadgets, the exhilarating crime-fighting car chases; that whole idea was constructed by this man, J. Edgar. And guess how he did it... he created this famous image of "The G-Man" through art.
Through a mixture of power and manipulation he utilised the media brilliantly, but intriguingly he also approached Hollywood to convey his agenda to the masses. All those movies of FBI agents thrillingly fighting crime whilst looking impeccably sophisticated were all his idea. He understood that art tells a story, and when the good guy in that story has an FBI badge, the audience naturally associates the FBI with the positive elements of the character. J. Edgar did not try to convince everyone that the FBI was good; he simply portrayed it as good via the medium of art, thus creating a conception inside the audience's mind without having ever told them directly. Yes, an inception. (Don't mind the Leonardo DeCaprio pun.)
So here we are in the 21st Century, and many of the people reading this article would believe in Jesus Christ â which I guess would make them a 'Christian'. Now the only problem I have with that title is the stigma attached to it. Many bad things have been done in the name of Christianity, and when I tell people that I am a Christian or talk to them about church, the ideas they have of it are often very different to what Jesus and the Bible defines as a Christ-follower.
Many people have a distorted and often entirely incorrect view of what it means to be a Christian, but I don't think that arguing with them is the best way to convince them.
I propose that the best way of changing people's impression is through depicting who we really are in skilful, captivating art. God created this incredible medium called art, through which we can communicate such complex intricacies in mere moments, shattering mindsets and completely shifting perspectives without ever having asked for permission. It seems most of the world have been effectively using art to define themselves for quite a while now, and I think its time we as Christians got better at it.
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 www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html