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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Restoring faith-based alternatives in the arts

The death of pop star Whitney Houston has increased the wildfire surrounding the shady functioning of the music and movie industries, as well as what some might call their blatant disregard for human souls. Houston was not the first to fall to the music industry’s subculture of drugs that so often gets the attention of the mainstream media, but she is one of the most recent as of this writing. Many have spoken up on her behalf saying that she was not a person who wanted to be living an immoral lifestyle, but that she was a Christian woman desiring to know God on a deeper level who was trying to get delivered from the grip of drug addiction.

R&B superstar Chaka Khan had a close friendship with Huston, and according to CBN, accused the music industry of being downright “demonic” shortly after the news about Houston’s death went public.

Gospel music singer Helen Baylor is also boldly speaking out about the darkness of the music industry, and she isn’t stopping with the secular music industry. Baylor has been willing to be rather vulnerable about her own struggles in relation to the influence of the music industry and drug addiction in her life, even as she admonishes that the Gospel music industry isn’t very far behind the secular in terms of where it’s headed. She claims that the focus has become misdirected over the years in the sense that Gospel music has become a form of entertainment rather than a means of ministering to people. The mindset of using Christian music as a tool to help people focus on drawing closer to God has given way to a market-driven mentality of appealing to the approval of the masses as Christian artists are put on worldly pedestals.

Even back in the 1990s, Christian music that was played on many radio stations was more rooted in the Word than much of what is being played today. This also gave people a chance to be more familiar with what the Word actually said and have more of a moral compass to guide them in their daily living. But as the music became more commercialized for the masses, the concept of Word-based lyrics became less of a focus. That being said, it seems that much of today’s church struggles with understanding why praise and worship is important, and there is a growing sentiment that it’s only people who are musicians and singers who really experience the presence of God through that venue anyway.

However, if that were truly the case, there wouldn’t be passages like 2 Chronicles chapter 5 verses 13-14 in which the praise and worship music was so rich with the presence of God that the priests couldn’t continue ministering because the glory of the Lord was so powerful in the temple. There was a visible cloud representing the presence of the Lord that filled that place, and it wasn’t just the singers and musicians who saw it. Everyone saw it. The church needs to realize that we are being called to return to a focus of using praise and worship as a means to worship God in Spirit and in truth. But the music industry is only one aspect of the arts in need of restoration.

Back in the 30s and 40s when the movie industry was one of the hottest new technologies that was becoming available to people, Christians were heavily involved in what made it into the theaters and what didn’t. Not only were Americans in that generation, and especially small business owners, more concerned about living a moral life, but they were also deeply concerned with running their business in accordance with Christian principles. And much of the movie industry was no exception.

In his book How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul, Ted Baehr notes that Christian groups had gotten together and created a motion picture code that Hollywood applied to their movies so that those movies would not negatively affect the culture. Then in 1966, the Christian groups pulled out, and today we have instances of the moral values of individual actors and actresses being violated to the point that some have chosen to refuse a role or lose their job rather than compromise.

Actor Neal McDonough is one case in point. According to MovieGuide.org he boldly refused to do a sex scene in the ABC series “Scoundrels”. So they fired him.

Boldly taking a stand for what one believes is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Especially for those who don’t have a great deal of experience yet and credits are needed to build a resume for future opportunities. While these types of decisions are personal ones for each artist, it also seems appropriate to point out that God does reward those who take a stand for what’s right. And sometimes that even manifests in this life.

What He is doing through the cast of Courageous would be a case in point. Not only has it had a positive influence on individual lives and families, but it has done well at the box office.

Another positive influence in the arts is Leonardo Defilippis, founder of St Luke’s Productions. According to the website, God placed a vision in his heart to present the Gospel of Luke, “in a new dramatic form.” That was three decades ago. Since that time, the production company has grown to produce several inspirational films and original music soundtracks. Not only does Defilippis have a desire to be used of the Lord for evangelism, but also to restore the dignity of film, drama and television.

Rich Christiano, founder of ChristianMovies.com is another influence in the industry that God is moving through in mighty ways. According to his website, He has been creating Christian movies with his brother Dave since 1982, and distributing them since 1985.

The above are just a few examples of some of God’s people in the industry who are boldly responding to His Call to partner with Him in the area of restoring faith-based alternatives in the arts.

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