Monthly Archives: October 2009

There is certainly no way to quantify where exactly art ends and propaganda begins. Probably all art contains some percentage of propaganda and vice versa . In the same way, aside from Jesus himself, there is probably no such thing as a 100% pure motive. It’s always a mixed bag.

But, with that in mind, we could say that Propaganda, at the far end of the spectrum, exists solely for the message it carries, and Art, on the far other end of the spectrum, exists for itself. Many of your answers seemed to have political propaganda in mind but that doesn’t have to be the case.
I would say: “Propaganda” is simply a means to an end as “Art” is both an end and a means unto itself.
For instance, if no one on the planet ever heard my music, I would still write and sing. Now the fact that others do listen to it, and I make a living doing it means that at times it must be modified. This doesn’t mean it has become propaganda but certain neutral changes may need to be made in order to accommodate a listener. (Here’s some advice: When you have listeners, you get to sing more often.)
Propaganda doesn’t have to be negative, but people generally despise it when they recognize it (as viewed here in your responses). People despise it because it isn’t sincere. It isn’t something you say because you “want” to say it, its something you say because you “have” to say it. Even if the motive behind it is pure, it still repulses people if they even feel that “motive behind it” behind it.
Art certainly can and should have tell a story, but if people feel that it only exists to prove a point or express a message then it turns them off. It certainly turns me off. No matter how “true” it is, I’m just not interested in it if you don’t believe in it yourself. I’m not saying that we should only do what we want to do. A community expression should at least attempt to include the community. Still, I think we should create art and write songs we actually mean. Not just what we’re supposed to sing.
Do you think that “church” art/music feels more like art or propaganda? Is this good? Should it change? How should it change?

Honestly, I started this blog to celebrate creativity, freedom, and the value of authentic artistic expression among people of faith. I wanted to help create a culture where people could talk openly about music, culture, and worship. At the same time, I wanted to answer questions that I commonly receive about songwriting etc.

Instead, I seem to spend most of my time defending these values instead of celebrating them. I can’t express to you how incredibly boring that has become.
Sure, creativity, artistic expression, and innovation/experimentation in worship (or for fun) may not be the absolutely most important aspects of Christian life, (they certainly aren’t the answer to every, if any, problem of the “modern day church”) but they are valuable, and incredibly difficult to find among faith oriented communities. More importantly, they are what I love, and what this blog is about…
See, I’m not trying to help people write songs for every Christian on the planet to sing. I’m trying to encourage people to pursue what they are passionate about and to shake free from the ridiculous and archaic (not to mention unbiblical) expectations of traditional church culture that burden and alienate sooooooooo many people (myself included).
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all against traditional expressions of worship (btw I consider most “contemporary” expressions still to be incredibly traditional), but I am against the stupid idea that these expressions are any more “correct” or “Biblical”. Our common expressions, even the most traditional, still look relatively nothing like those of the bible… and that’s OK because “it” (whatever “it” is) seems to be more about the level of our authenticity, not the precision of our mimicry. I’m just sick of people telling me what “worship” is and isn’t simply because it doesn’t look or sound like what they do at their church.
So, I’m done…
…not with the blog, but with wasting time defending these values.
John Mark

..And it’s not supposed to.

I think very often people get “homogeny” confused with “unity”. Being alike is not the same as being unified, and being too alike can actually deter real unity. Certain strengths come with certain weaknesses, and this being the case, we desperately need one another to compliment each other.

I think what happens often in every kind of music, but that is certainly more obvious in “worship” arenas, is that there is a pressure to try to make a song or experience so palatable to every kind of person that we end up striping it of any real personality. So the song becomes a little interesting to everyone but isn’t very interesting to anyone.

(And yes, once again what we sing/how we worship has to mean something to us. This is because God wants an expression of authenticity. He’s interested in us not just mindless religious activity.)

So, if a song doesn’t work across the board in every stream of Christendom, it doesn’t negate the validity of a worship song.


And furthermore, where does this one size fits all, no child left behind, least common denominator, Christianity come from? For a group of people who are largely made up of western capitalists it seems to be a bit of a communist mindset. Am I crazy? (btw nothing against capitalists or communists. I prefer to stay light years away from politics in this blog.)

The fact is the whole church only agrees on about 2 things tops. And even the top guys in each stream disagree about the details. So if you want to reach the entire Christian world you are restricted to writing about those two topics and often in the blandest of terms. Even then, you’re going to lose that whole segment of people that only like things that other people don’t like.

You just can’t please everyone, and you’re not supposed to. What you are supposed to do is serve the people you’ve been given with every fiber of you’re being.