Our book club selection for the first quarter of 2009 has been Steve Turner’s Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts. We hope that it has been inspirational and enlightening for you. If you want to participate in or put together a discussion group in your area, please consult February's Work B.e.n.c.h. newsletter for some guidelines, or contact us at email@example.com. Below are some suggested discussion questions about Imagine for book club groups.
1. In Chapter 1, what attitudes and ideas about Christian art did Steve Turner outline from his own experiences? What attitudes and expectations have you encountered from Christians regarding the arts? Discuss the effects that these might have upon artists, the Christian community and the world.
2. In Chapter 2, Turner discusses the history of the Church in regard to the arts. Evaluate Turner’s arguments about the relationship of the Church and the arts through the ages. On page 24 he quotes Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, as telling Constantine’s sister there is no such thing as Christian art. What did he mean? The chapter ends with a quote: “How much of life is Christ to be Lord over?” Then the statement follows: “The sort of art we make as Christians will illustrate the answer.” Looking at the status of Christians in the arts today, and Christian art itself, how would a non-Christian answer that?
3. In Chapter 3, Turner points out various controversies about Christians making art: graven images, portraying sin in a positive light, invitation to worldly thinking, triviality, deception or falsehood, and failing to glorify God. Which of these issues have you heard about, experienced or taught? Do you think Turner makes a good argument refuting the most prevalent criticisms of the arts by Christians?
4. In Chapter 4, Turner argues that, while there is a place for overtly Christian art, there is also a place for Christians to create art that carries a more subtle message. How can Christians who create art that is not specifically intended for the Church become more relevant, according to Turner? He mentions several artists in this chapter. Which artists, in your experience, would best exemplify or refute Turner’s arguments?
5. In Chapter 5 we see that the Bible is full of artistic expressions – songs, dance, even erotic poetry – as well as tales of lust, greed, violence, revenge and their consequences. Why do you think so many Christian artists are so timid about approaching the same issues today? How can the examples set out in the Bible for artistic expression be used to make Christian art more significant to the world?
6. In Chapter 6 Turner presents the realms of art in concentric circles, with the Gospel at the center and art with no clear worldview on the outer edge. Christian society pressures its artists to focus entirely upon the central circle and not venture beyond the Gospel. Shouldn’t Christian artists have a voice in other realms of discussion, like peace, social justice, and the value of human life? Can stepping beyond the boundary of Gospel-only expression help Christians reach others who have little or no point of reference for that central circle? Think about the art (recordings, paintings, etc.) in your home. Where does each of them fall within these circles?
7. According to Turner’s ideas in Chapter 7, how can Christian artists help solve the church’s apparent problem with producing culturally irrelevant art in America?
8. Evaluate the ways that U2 and the other artists mentioned in Chapter 8 have used their art to comment both on their faith and their society. Why do you think more Christian artists are unable to connect with mainstream society on such a level? Have bands like Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, Lifehouse, P.O.D. and The Fray been able to have a similar impact upon secular culture as U2? How?
9. Drawing from Turner’s discussion in Chapter 9, design a plan that would help a Christian artist keep up a strong spiritual life with Christ at the forefront. How can churches work to support, encourage, utilize and protect their artists?
If you were to write a book-cover summary, or explain to a Christian artist what you learned from Turner’s book, what would you say? Has this book changed the way you view the role of artists in Christian life? Explain.
We are actively deciding upon the book club selection for the second quarter of 2009 (April-June), and we will post the information in the April edition of this webzine. Stay tuned!!
Posted by Todd and Christie at 3:52 PM
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