Saturday, January 9, 2010

Artistic License vs. Artistic Responsibility

Ever hear a song, read a passage from a book or watch a film that leaves you feeling refreshed, worshipful or inspired? I imagine we all have. It's an amazing facet of creativity - that it can be used to nurture those who are exposed to it.

There's a song by Jeremy Riddle called "I Am Redeemer" that absolutely makes me feel like I'm sitting at the Lord's feet. There's something about the intensity of the words and the way he sings them that immediately makes me want to worship my Savior. What an amazing gift, to be able to affect someone so deeply!

When the Lord gifts people in that way, it's a gift they get to share with everyone who is willing to listen, and one can only hope that those gifts are used to edify. That's what I hope to do with my writing. It's a responsibility I feel I have, that if I've been given a gift I should use it to glorify my God who provided it.

Do I feel that means that no Christian artist should ever write or sing or film anything that doesn't directly have a Spiritual message? No, I don't. The first books I ever wrote were romantic comedies that had very little focus on my faith. However, they were clean books that didn't in any way compromise Scriptural morality and that encouraged godly lifestyles.

I've seen some discussions of late pertaining to the way in which some books in the inspirational market have started to push the boundaries, to include more descriptive tales of immorality and question the basic facets of Scripture. Certainly, I don't believe that Christian fiction needs to be dumbed down to unreality. We are human beings living in a sinful world, and in order to write realistically there are going to be bad things that happen in our books. There will be unpleasant characters living unpleasant lifestyles, portrayals of Christians who have slid into sin. But do we need to explore the depths of it all?

I grew up on classic black-and-white films. I still love them to this day, and one of the things I love most about them is that I never have to sit uncomfortably waiting for something to be said or done that I'll regret having heard or seen. All the same, if you watch old movies, you'll definitely see some that portray the seedier side of life. Just pick up a James Cagney movie sometime. Cagney very often played a murderous thug, a tough guy who didn't give a dime about anyone's life, including his own. In White Heat there's a scene where he's stowed a guy in a trunk to keep him out of sight, and when the guy asks for a little air, he walks up to the trunk and shoots it full of holes. Clearly, he's a bad guy! And yet, throughout the film there was no foul language, no sexual innuendo, no nudity. They just knew how to portray evil without spelling it out letter by letter.

When Rhett Butler carried Scarlett O'Hara up the stairs in Gone With the Wind, did you really need to see more to figure out what goes on next? I don't think so. We're pretty smart people, we don't need the nitty-gritty details to know the facts.

So why shouldn't we, as authors, be able to do the same with what we write? Why do we need to fill our readers minds with muck in order to communicate our objective? The answer is, we don't. We should have enough skill in our writing to accurately portray the characters and their situations without dirtying things up.

As Christian artists, if we're going to push the limits, let's push the limits of our faith. Let's let it shine out of every word we write, every song we sing, every film we create. Even if we don't always shine the light directly on Christ, let's put out work that abides by His principles.

That's the reason the Creator of all things gave us our creativity in the first place.

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."
Ephesians 4:29 (NAS)


Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

Bravo! Well-said! Well lived. Let us consider how we can spur one another on to love and good deeds!

C.J. Darlington said...

Great thoughts, Jennifer! I agree with you all the way.

Jennifer Valent said...

Thanks, girls!

David A. Bedford said...

Given what you say, I would be very curious as to what you would think of my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over. Rather than plug it, I'll just refer you to my publisher.If you would like to know more, please click on my name and follow the link to my website. Thanks!

Jennifer Valent said...

I'll check it out, David. Thanks for stopping by!

Mrs. Laura Long said...

Well said! I just finished ! I can't wait until the next book comes out. Thank you for your wonderful stories and for writing novels that honor Christ!

Jennifer Valent said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement, Laura! I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed them!