But the ultimate solution to cultural decay is not so much the repression of bad culture as the production of sound and healthy culture, which in a society salted with vital Christianity will readily crowd out the bad. Therefore, we should direct most of our energy not to the censorship of decadent culture, but to the production and support of healthy expressions of Christian and non-Christian art.” (Dynamics of Spiritual Life, pgs. 353-354)

I quoted Lovelace here not because I find myself as hopeful as he was about the renewal of society, but rather because I found in him a wisdom I’m hoping will be magnified in the Church today. We can all remember those times when the Contemporary Christian music scene was first emerging and all the censorship and slippery slope arguments that were being raised against it. Labels like Tooth & Nail were taboo rather than industry standards the way they are today. Culture shifted and the Church, as she often is, was wondering where she fit in. I believe she is living again in a time of great shifting with the growth of globalism, the renewal of urbanism, and the social impact of postmodern epistemology. Once again she is wondering where she belongs and how she fits. It would be easy for her to go the censorship route, she’s done it, she’s been there and its comfortable like an old glove or holey sweater, and the accommodation route is just as well worn and familiar to her.

Lovelace, in his reflections above, made nearly thirty years ago had another hope for her. She should spend her energy on “the production and support of healthy expressions of Christian and non-Christian art“. What might this look like? Here are a few of the ministries, movements, and churches I’ve seen working out this vision: Francis Schaffer and Labri ministries is a wonderful expression of the Church working toward the production and support of healthy art; the Emerging Churches as a movement (though some do not see it as a movement) are laboring to explore the role of image and icon in the worship of the church; and in the Presbyterian Church of American there are new voices laboring to express art’s role in bringing a holistic worship experience to the local church (Seven Rivers in Lecanto, Fl; Valley Springs in Sacramento, Ca; Christ Church in Atlanta, Ga are all demonstrations of this trend).

My hopes are that the Church gets beyond playing catch up or imitation of ‘pop-culture’ and continues to push the envelope of art in the public arena. That we experience again the power of imagination and innovation the Biblical writers had as they artfully constructed their witness to the church then for the sake of our churches now. That we express our commonness, our unity afresh by looking closely at our past’s, while also exploring the diversity due in part to cultural shifts, political developments, economical changes, and the rich history of art that has taken place between the church then and the church now.

Where are some of the arena’s the Church has not been a producer of culture? What are the present cultural trends the Church should support? And to be counter-intuitive of Lovelace’s quote for a moment, what is happening in the cultures of today that the Church must protest?