“You know, I find that one of the hardest places to be honest, as an artist, is in the church.”
Whoa! Say what? The statement took me aback a bit.
Then another voice chimed in, “Oh, I totally agree. There are a lot of audiences much more accepting of honesty in our culture. The church is one of the hardest places to speak the truth.”
Wham again! I mean of all places for honesty and truth, shouldn’t the church be at the top of the list?
The conversation was at an intimate gathering of Christian artists in a retreat setting—oddly enough, in a church. Most of the people in attendance were professional performers with a focus on ministry. For most, their audience was the church.
Among the attributes of an artist, speaking the truth is at the top of the list. And yet…
“Oh, you can be honest about some things—the ‘approved topics’ that the tribe accepts. Of course, you can talk about ‘Gospel’ truth. You can even talk about certain failings, certain areas of brokenness; the ‘acceptable sins.’ But there are lots of areas that you can’t touch.”
As the conversation continued I began to understand. There was much brokenness and hurt gathered in this room; divorce, betrayal, addictions, and other issues that are not easily dismissed. Stuff that real people deal with on a daily basis.
And they were saying that both personally and as artists they found it difficult and even impossible to speak about these things in the one place where issues of brokenness should be welcome.
I recalled a conversation with a friend who is a well-known Christian recording artist. He had echoed some of the same sentiment. His passion was to write songs about brokenness but was hitting a wall of resistance. He was told the songs he wanted to write would not be “marketable” to the church audience he was playing to. Only positive and uplifting music was desired and would be commercially acceptable.
In recent years I have been sharing personal stories from my life in my performances. One of the things I have found encouraging is that people are overwhelmingly affirming about the “honesty” and “transparency” I share in my stories… but to be even more honest and transparent, I filtered those stories to stay away from the taboo topics, that I knew deep down inside I couldn’t share. I knew my audiences wouldn’t accept those stories in the context of a church setting. I have to admit it would be very easy to be “more honest” about some of the issues if I were not playing to the church.
I am in a lot of churches… virtually a different one or two every weekend. A lot of churches advertise “come as you are” and try really hard to project an image of being a place where the broken are welcome. But are they being honest?
I don’t have an answer.
I do know that, for the most part, the group of artists gathered in this room are exceptionally qualified to speak honesty and truth, but are not feeling the freedom to do that for the audience they feel called to serve.
Thoughts?Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 4 comments