Friday, February 15, 2008

Integrity - Martin

When I’m observing an artist’s creation — poet, novelist, musician, movie maker — I often consider the question of integrity. Regardless of who they are, artists need to strive for what I call artistic integrity. Does the piece aspire to excellence when compared with others who do similar work?

When reviewing other poets’ writing, I apply the same standards that I challenge myself to attain, with my poetry. As Music Critic for Christian Week, I consider various aspects of musicianship, song writing, production, and originality. In that role I seek to tell readers about music that is worth checking out, rather than telling them what to avoid. What makes this CD stand out from others in the same genre? Why would this be a good album to purchase?

Particularly if an artist is a Christian, there’s another aspect of integrity I believe must be considered. I call it spiritual integrity. Does the work fit within a Christian world view? Would God be glorified by the content? Although artists shouldn’t feel they need to preach the gospel or kingdom values, they should not, intentionally or unintentionally, undermine them either.

In evaluating the artistic and spiritual integrity of art, we’re not likely to all agree, but I believe we each need to fix our minds on what we believe such integrity looks like. I believe in expecting high standards from believers artistically, and even higher standards spiritually. As children of the creator, creativity should be a high value — but we should reserve the toughest criticism for our own art.

And so we ask... How should a novelist portray evil? Does she have spiritual integrity if immoral behaviour by her characters is seen as acceptable, or even as exciting? Does she have artistic integrity if bad things only seem to happen to bad people? To what degree should believers be portrayed as being sinful, or even hypocritical? What’s the difference between being judgmental and being discerning? Should a Christ-follower openly question God through his poetry?

Beyond our art, we also need to express our integrity in our lives — being encouragers, being servants, being men and women of prayer, loving our spouses and children by actions as well as words. Integrity is what we’re called to; people of integrity is who we are.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at

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