I am a fan of Pinterest. Truth is, I'm one of those people who put thought and effort into my Instagram posts and even enjoy the odd Tumblr blog too (find me at @danieljmathewâhollaaaa!).
I love that as technology and media develops, these new avenues of creativity give everybody the opportunity to publish their ideas to the world; I now don't have to go to an art gallery to be inspired, I have access to the most brilliant creations around the world at the push of a button.
The thing is, in an age of the pedicured, perfect picture of Pinterest, the image of the ideal is projected in front of our eyes so much that it's easy to get caught up in it. One would assume that this would cause people to forget the sometimes imperfect realities of life.
But make no mistake, the moment people look away from their screen, they're under no illusion of their own situation. In fact, this preoccupation with portraying the perfect image of one's self is certainly not causing this generation to forget it's personal struggles. If anything, the over-edited collage of life's highlight reel is causing a sense of inadequacy and emptiness as the race to the most likes on Instagram doesn't satisfy the ever-growing hole in our heart.
The more we see the perfect, the more we realise our life isn't, and this can be a depressing realisation.
Christian cut cookies (suitable for ages 8-11)
I grew up in a Christian family and have been fed all sorts of Christian media since I was born, and most of the time I can pick a Christian song, movie, poem or picture simply by the cheesiness of it.
At some point in history the modern Church took a turn from the artistic magnificence of the Western Christian revolution. Instead of going back to the stark honesty of biblical artistic expression we started offering a censored, sentimental art that sits uncomfortably between the brutal honesty of the Psalms and the virtuosic spectacle of the renaissance.
What we're left with is a watered down Sunday school product that is artistically too mediocre for contemporary standards and theologically too weak for intelligent believers. It is lukewarm art and I dry-retch every time I hear it.
Christian kids grow up entertained in their Christian bubble but the moment they start exploring the worlds of music, film and literature they find themselves embarrassed by this soft Christian product. The temptation is to either reserve church music for Sundays, or become so repulsed by Christian art, and influenced by the world's offerings that they turn from faith altogether.
Please know, there is transcendent power to good art! The world knows it and practises it, it's time the Church started doing so too. This desire to keep everything G-rated and purely positive is completely unbiblibcal!
The Psalms are an outpouring of artists being real with God about life. Life is certainly not always sweet and easy. From walking through the valley of the shadow of death to drowning in tears of grief and sorrowâKing David depicts not only the euphoric highs but also the depressing lows.
It's this dichotomy we find so appealing; it's this juxtaposition of lows that gives weight and meaning to the highs. Indeed, what is joy without the knowledge of pain? What is a high without the comparison of a low? What is faith without the testing of a challenge? What is love without the experience of loss?
The most valuable asset we have is our story. As artists it is up to us to deliver that through whatever medium we best can. Our testimony is what overrides even the smartest atheist and breaks through even the hardest of hearts. As it has been said, 'when the front door of the intellect is closed, the backdoor of imagination is open'. But the key to this is honesty. Brutal honesty is the most disarming and empowering things, and I think it is sorely missed in modern Christian art.
Eyes to see
I believe as artists we were designed to feel things more acutely than others, but with that comes the responsibility of articulating the true reality, not just painting a chimerical picture of perfection. Even if that costs us a few 'likes' on Instagram, even if it ruffles a few feathers in traditional Christendom, in the long run honesty will grant the artist greater integrity with the audience and create a far more transcendent beauty in the art. It will captivate the audience with more than just an unlikely daydream but an empowering connection that one can relate to in one's current situation, and is then inspired to move forward holistically.
After all, we're not called to try and cheer up those who weep, but to 'rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn'. Let's not offer a sanitised view of life to the world; if God didn't do that in the Bible, why should the Church? Just be real! We need to make art that is real. That people can actually relate to, not feel inadequate next to.
'But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for youâfrom nothing to something, from rejected to accepted'. (1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9â10)
As artists, we celebrate that which makes us human, and this means articulating the highs and the lows of life. We're called to articulate the battle between flesh and spirit, the struggle between who we are now and who God wants to make us into tomorrow.
A depiction of one's reality is actually the most empowering thing an artist can expressâboth for themselves and for the audience. Because when we realise the struggle is real, then we have the power to change it.
Daniel J. Mathew has studied a bachelor of music and now resides in Los Angeles.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html