Devotional Artifice and Didactic Crap. I wrote this article in response to statements made by Sufjan Stevens and the fodder they were for an uninformed, shallow critique of music that more overt Christians make couched in a fawning review of Carrie and Lowell, Stevens new album.
Maybe there is something to fawn over, as this article in Christianity Today suggests. The article suggests the following options: 1) accept him as “one of our own” who has found the key to the inside of popular art culture (a response that Stevens would pointedly protest); 2) reject him as one who does not want to be associated with “us”; 3 or) worship at the feet of the altar of his art. I do not claim these are the only options, but they seem the most obvious.
Is there another way to look at this? For the Christ follower who cannot easily dismiss the invitation to pick up the cross and follow, is there a compromise? Is there a way to honor God above all else without compromising the art? Is there a way of making uncompromising art without making an idol of it?
Sufjan Stevens has written:
To objectify art is to measure its commercial value and squander its transcendental powers of benevolence. Reciprocity demeans art; or, rather, it functions to incarcerate its powers, to judge it for its charity. Like putting Mother Teresa on trial, or in prison, for the crime of compassion. On the contrary, perfect art, as a perfect gift (without ulterior motive, without gain, without compensation) courageously gives itself over to the world asking nothing in return.
Do I engage with my work as a father cultivates his child, with loving-kindness, with fierce enrichment, with awe and wonder, with unconditional love, with absolute sacrifice? I make this my impossible objective.
Is art transcendental in and of itself? Must art be without ulterior motive to be pure? Should art demand the unconditional love and absolute sacrifice of the artist? I am having difficulty finding the harmony with faith in a Holy God. I have not head the album yet, but I assume it is everything I have read.
For another take, here is an interview with Bono.