Over the weekend I saw Les Miserables. I had never seen the musical, read the book, or seen the previous movie adaptation starring Liam Nesson. What a great movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Everything about the movie was great; acting, cinematography, directing, music, singing (Yes Russell Crowe by far had the weakest voice, but you’d be hard pressed to find an actor who could better capture the presence of the relentless Javert).
More than simply enjoying the movie, I was left with a desire and hunger for more. I don’t know much about Victor Hugo other than that he wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame as well. I don’t know what his religious affiliation was, but it is quite clear he had been influenced by a biblical worldview and its understanding of law, grace, atonement, justice, sin, depravity, and wove those themes into his work. There is so much depth to that story that I don’t even know where to begin if we were to discuss what all makes it so great other than to say it is a beautiful piece of art.
Les Miserables is the kind of work that Christian writers, artists and musicians of today should aspire to make. Les Miserables puts Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and other “Christian” movies to shame. I know that’s a really strong statement to make but allow me to explain what I mean.
There was a time, not that long ago, that we didn’t have this divide between the sacred and secular. You may think that this divide is a good thing but it’s not. All it has done is spawned a separate Christian sub-culture where Christians make art for other Christians to enjoy. In other words Christian art is for Christians only, not the masses. Christians or at least people who thought Christianly because they had been influenced by a biblical worldview were at the forefront of music, the arts, architecture, etc. Christians were making beautiful things that were accessible to everyone and available for all to enjoy, and not just those who frequented the Christian bookstore or the Christian music section. The work they produced was done with the kind of excellence, creativity, and originality that I feel is often times missing from the work we produced in the CCM world. The last thing we need is another generation of musicians who will make the latest version of “Amazing Grace” or “Better is One Day”, perform for and are promoted exclusively to Christian audiences.
For the next generation of artists, writers, storytellers, thespians, and musicians being in the world but not of it needs to become more than just taking familiar cultural forms and throwing John 3.16 onto it and calling it Christian. For them being in the world but not of it needs to become producing rich, thought provoking, and beautiful pieces of work that engages and is for the enjoyment of the masses, and not just the Christian masses.