Renew the Arts Roundtable is a continuing series of discussions between members and friends of Renew the Arts concerning (mostly) recent happenings in the intersecting worlds of faith, art, and popular culture. In this first installment, three staff members talk about Ambient Church, the implications this movement has for the relationship between the Church and the Arts, and how Christian art can be liberated by analyzing this issue.
The sun has set in Opelika, Alabama, and Joshua Jackson rolls through town with a car full of his close friends. They’ve spent the day shooting for a short film to be published on Jackson’s YouTube comedy channel. Hungry, they decide to go to Wendy’s for a quick bite. As they drive along, one of the friends starts to slap a beat on his lap. Another starts beatboxing, and the rest join in the impromptu percussion session. At the request of one of his friends, Jackson starts to sing a song about driving to Wendy’s in a free-wheeling, pseudo-rap as the crew laughs and continues the beat.
This is a fairly standard summer evening for Joshua Jackson, a singer-songwriter now working under the moniker Make Sure. Jackson currently lives in Auburn, Alabama, to attend Auburn University, but he is an Opelika native through and through. Jackson was born and raised in the neighboring town, and many of his friends still live there. He speaks very highly of his home town, noting its welcoming atmosphere and kind-hearted inhabitants. Joshua Jackson reflects this warmth through his music, and he has been doing so for six years now.
Many Christians seem to have lost the ability to meditate, and for a few reasons. For one, the very word meditation causes some uneasiness in certain Christian circles, bringing to mind new-age subjectivity and Eastern mysticism. Further, the information saturation and overall busyness of Western culture has contributed to our shrinking attention span. We all have a decreasing ability to dwell on one idea for any length of time, even “action” movies are sometimes described as boring by the chronically desensitized.
So in days like these when meditation has fallen out of practice and has been devalued by the cultural status quo, a meditative aid can be productive to assist us in our attempts to sustain focus on God’s word. God has, after all, recommended this practice as “blessed” (Ps. 1:2, among others).
I used to love Christmas music. I used to love it so much, in fact, that I convinced the rest of my family that it is acceptable to listen to Christmas music on November 1st (the previous acceptable time was exclusively post-Thanksgiving). However, I’ve found myself listening to less Christmas music with each passing year.
This year, as I’ve become more vested in the philosophy of aesthetics thanks to my involvement with the Nehemiah Foundation, I’ve been pondering why I have experienced this gradual divorce from holiday tunes. What I’ve found are some serious pitfalls within the genre and some solutions to renewing the arts that surround Christ’s birth.