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May 10, 2010

How do Christians Take Back the Beautiful?

Screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi has some thoughts on the topic.

Focus on the Family's CitizenLink recently had an interesting interview with screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi, founder of Act One, a training/mentoring program for young Christians in the entertainment industry.

Nicolosi had some strong words regarding Christians and the arts: "The idea of beautiful as something that we should aspire to every time we sit down to create – that’s gone. I go to the 10 o’clock Mass in my parish watching 1,500 people groaning because it’s such bad music. It’s not that they’re not doing music anymore, it’s just they’re doing it badly.

"A lot of church drama, skits, what passes for literature intended for the Christian audience, is banal at best. That’s because the church has started to see the arts over the last couple generations as means to an end. 'We’re going to use this song to get people to be pro-life or use this skit to make people repent. We’re going to use this book to make people not commit suicide.' Even though they’re good agendas, they’ve attached an agenda on these works of art."

CitizenLink concludes the interview by asking, "How do Christians take back the beautiful?" Nicolosi's revealing answer includes some sound advice: It's very hard work, making something beautiful. You can't cut corners. Check it out.


Let me also suggest that beautiful does not have to equate to happy. I really enjoy the show "Breaking Bad"; however, it is, in a word, sad. There does not appear to be any possibility of a happy ending to the lives of its characters. Yet, the writing is gripping, the acting compelling, and I find there is "beauty" in the exquisite and excellent way this story of pain, helplessness, despair, and searching is told.

I have always felt this way. How many totally banal Christian romance novels are out there? And yet they are considered "safe" and "quality" reads for Christians. Blech.

I can definitely see her point about storytelling. One of my favorite shows this year is Parenthood. There is a lot I don't like about this show morally (thank God for TiVO), but the characters are fascinating. I want to see how these people deal with the challenges that confront them. If christian writers put that kind of effort into character development, they could do a believable and interesting show about people of faith dealing with the challenges of life instead of the schmalzy dreck that shows up on christian tv. Show me characters that fall down, and get up bleeding but still keep going, and I will believe their faith. Show me people who glide through life and nothing really bothers them because they have Jesus, and I'll change the channel. That's not reality, and non-believers know it instinctively.
It's not as though we have no one to show us how it's done. Until the last 50 years, popular literature and even movies were dominated by the writing of people of faith.