Five Great Christians of the Arts

It’s terrific that the worldviews of artists do not usually bog down the arts in our culture with unwanted, pushy, preachy messages and agendas. Still, there are movies, paintings, music, and all types of other media (that have qualities of the arts in them even if they don’t usually belong in the category of the arts) that carry the weight of artists’ worldviews. These not-so subtle reflections of people’s opinions and beliefs stir us up to accept the artists views, or they drive us nuts and to harsh criticism of the loud-mouthed activism and their terrible execution of their craft.

Christians are often pressed for their dismal attempts to be culturally relevant. Their efforts show they don’t know how to not preach when they make movies, music, etc. This is unfortunately true, and Christian artists like these will mostly be forgotten as quickly as they come on the scene. When people want a sermon, they’ll go to Church. When people want to rally for a cause, they will join on a volunteer basis. When people watch a movie, read a novel, or listen to music to pass the time, they want to be entertained.

Not that arts with a strong message are unacceptable. They just need to be done right…. That might be my subject another day.

At the moment, think about the success of the following Christian artists that were great in their craft. These people transcend their times, peers, and cultures to be world renown. Although their CHristian values may have not always been apparent in their works, still, they were Christians that made a positive impact on the arts. So think about the spark of what makes these artists unique among the crowd:

C.S. Lewis

Although most people that know of C.S. Lewis know he was a Christian, Lewis is appreciated for so much more than his values. Lewis’ contributions to fiction surpass the bounds of the sub-category of Christian literature. He captivated the attention of all peoples with his science fiction, and most of all, the fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia series.

Lewis was a thinker, and as a thinker he wanted to appeal to the human emotions and interests of all people through his stories. He understood that the essence of fiction should be good on many levels: that stories should be imaginative, comical, familiar, unusual, uplifting, adventurous… and so much more. These factors all playing major parts in his written works gained the respect of critics and readers.

While not always consistent in his view of Christianity, Lewis did try to establish a worldview that was the basis for his writing he was working on at any given time in his life. He made his own worldview foundational to every aspect of his life, and subtly they fed the significance and meaning in his works.

James Stewart

Jimmy Stewart is one of the most well-respected actors of the 20th century, and for good cause. Jimmy started his Hollywood career in the early 1930s, presented a wide variety of characters from that time on through the 70s. His acting roles made us feel like we knew the man (he was) on the silver screen as best of friends.

Stewart was also a life-long Presbyterian. Jimmy was consistently the good man his parents raised him to be; he wasn’t corrupted by the den of sin he often faced in the thick of the golden age of Hollywood. Stewart usually played the good guys and didn’t aggressively work to add to his prestige. Stewart was ever a modest, honest, and simple man.

Jimmy acted in roughly 100 movies, and directed a few as well. To his credit, he was nominated for five academy awards (won two) and many of his pictures are regarded as classics by audiences everywhere.

Remarkable qualities of this man were his faithfulness to church and his wife. Although there were rough times of his life with his commitments to God and his life-partner, Jimmy understood and devoted himself to these holy pursuits. He is one of few entertainers, religious or not, that can say we was faithful to the last.

Johnny Cash

A uniquely troubled Christian, Johnny Cash fell in-and-out of his walk with God for a portion of his life. Cash was accustomed to many self-destructive habits in his youth and career in music, but in time he rededicated himself to the Faith, and Cash’s devotion stuck with him to the end of his life.

Johnny’s contribution to American music helped greatly to usher in the country music, and in some respects influenced classic rock and other genres. Many singers, songwriters, musicians study the works of Cash to glean his creative genius. Johnny Cash’s music is about as American as stars and stripes or apple pie. Cash is responsible for 574 original songs (or his own various versions of songs). This is not counting hymns and the like that Johnny also recorded.

Although Johnny Cash is often remembered for his struggle with drugs, or his time in prison (not to mention other attributes of his publicly known sin nature), he is today a great among artists, and one of the most humble artists in American pop culture that knew his place as a sinner redeemed by his Savior and Lord.

Norman Rockwell

It’s hard to say where Norman Rockwell stood in his personal Faith based on his church attendance alone. But if you are familiar with the values presented subtly, and openly, in his paintings, it is apparent this mild-mannered man never forgot his Faith-based upbringing.

Norman painted more than 4,000 original works. Most of his works were lost or destroyed over the years. What are left are mostly kept in permanent collections, and at times are on display in museums the world over. Something unique about Rockwell is the way his fans readily accepted his allusions to Christian values—whether these fans are religious or not. Norman’s popularity clearly transcends race, religion, and country.

But most of all, Norman Rockwell captured the far corners of human emotion and human experiences for the times in which he lived. He could make us laugh or reflect seriously on our human conditions with his clever illustrations of life.

Roy Rogers

Cowboys may have fallen out of style, but long after cowboy movies and their popular cowboy stereotype performers have all but been forgotten, Roy Rogers is still remembered world-wide and regarded as one incredible entertainer for his day.

Roy was known for stage, screen, and music performances. He still holds the world’s record for the most endorsements of commercial products by any one man (if he were in the height of his career today, he would be the guy we’d listen to ahead of Tiger Woods in the ads for watches).

So he was an all-around cool dude… and you can imagine the rest. : )