"Addicted to Mediocrity" - book review
Ever wonder why art was so great a few hundred years ago - and done mostly by Christians or those operating in the Christian consensus - but today's "christian" art is pretty bland and boring? Franky Schaeffer's book "Addicted to Mediocrity" does a great job explaining how we as Christians have lost our artistic prominence and settled for droll sofa art.
The High Renaissance in Italy and Reformation-era in the Dutch/Flemish/German region had a basic understanding that creativity came from God, was good, and needed no justification. You create because you were created in the image of the Creator. But with time a Platonic understading of spirituality developed, separating it from daily life. It was a religious end in itself. Certain things were seen as either spiritual or secular. That developed alongside of the utilitarian mindset of the Industrial Revolution. People started evaluating themselves and the world around them through a screen of pure utilitarianism. What does this person/talent/object contribute (monetarily/evangelistically/etc)?
As an artist, I see this to be too true today. The church, as an earthly organization, rarely values artists (visual, written, musical, dance, cinematic, etc.) unless they are 1) bringing more cash into the coffers, 2) actively evangelizing through their medium, or 3)contributing in some way to the contemporary christian subculture as seen in the Christian book market and music industry. I've never been asked to do a drawing or artwork for the sake of beauty. But I have been instructed (by a pastor, no less), to make a church logo look something Nieman Marcus-esque to draw the upper-middle class white collar demographic.
Any art you find in your local christian bookstore would bomb in the market at large. The only reason we see so much of it in our bookstores is because we keep buying it! We, as the Christian culture, have settled for less than quality work, most likely because it's been sanctified with a bible verse or Christian symbol.
"Cultural endeavors, the arts, and the media are truly the marketplace of ideas." We have settled for mediocrity in our Christian art, music, writing, even preaching and teaching. When Christians withdraw to their own little ghetto and offer toothbrushes with bible verses to the world, it's no wonder the state of affairs our culture is in! For the millions who profess to be evangelical Christians and all the Christian activity, programs, money spent/raised, bumper stickers and national programs, Schaeffer asks "why then is the culture moving in such a devastating speed in an Anti-Christian direction?"
So what can you do? Schaeffer offers some great advice: First, be addicted to quality and integrity in artwork. Second, those around you in their creative endeavors (this doesn't have to be financially). Lastly, free yourself from the mindset that we must tack on a few Christian slogans at the end to somehow redeem our work. "Christ redeems what we do.... There is no Christian world, no secular world...there is only one world, the one God made."
I would encourage you to look around your home, your church, your garden, your place, whatever that may be. How can you bring beauty and glory to God in that area? For practical ideas on how to do this, I highly recommend Edith Schaeffer's book "The Hidden Art of Homemaking" put out by Tyndale Press.