Christians are very generous people.
This is widely acknowledged by those inside and outside of the church, and rightly so when you consider how much God has given us.
But for most Christians there would be some forms of giving that are seen as more appropriate than others. Giving to your church seems to get a universal thumbs up, as does giving to foreign mission. Supporting individual evangelists is very much par for the course in some circles, while planting churches gets people to reach into their pockets elsewhere. And of course, nobody would question someone who gave in response to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.
But as for the arts? Well…
Most Christians have some sort of appreciation for the arts, but in the church in the UK as I’ve experienced it, it would be rare for anyone to put the case for giving financially to ‘the arts’. Funnily enough, I’d like to make such a case here and in the following few weeks, and as I do,also provide a practical way to apply all of this.
How we use our money highlights what we consider important. We’ve been making the case since Sputnik began that the arts are important. We’d now like to join the dots from theory to wallets. So let’s kick things off with three simple reasons why we think Christians should give to the arts…
Art does people good
The arts play a far more important role in our lives than we often realise. The arts are one of the main ways that a culture comes alive. A thriving arts scene sets the tone. It can be the difference between colour and black and white. The arts point towards a transcendence and an otherness in the human experience that has the potential to bring joy and hope, even if the practitioners involved don’t believe in such a reality.
Whether it’s through your Spotify playlist, your Kindle library or the pictures you choose to decorate your living room with, for almost all of us, the arts add significant value to our lives.
Therefore, as we respond to human need in giving our money to relieve suffering (a noble cause), shouldn’t we also give it to attending to general human flourishing and building a foundation for life and vitality in our communities?
Art shapes culture
The arts don’t just bring colour to life though, they also play a vital role in fashioning and shaping the values, presuppositions and ideas that are cherished in a culture. Artists take the big ideas of the thinkers, and they make them accessible to the masses, not just by communicating information to our minds but resonating with us emotionally, so that we are warmed to ideas, whether we agree with them or not.
For a worldview or philosophy to take root in a culture, it needs the arts to prepare the way, otherwise, for all its good ideas, it may well find itself shouting loud, but going completely unheard.
Perhaps that sounds a bit close to home, as Christianity is a case in point here. While many worldviews and ethical positions have engaged with the arts very effectively in recent times, the church has systematically withdrawn from this field.
We need to help a new generation of Christian artists to make art of excellence that has the power to speak subtly and authentically into our culture. To do this, it will take a number of things. One of these will be money.
Artists need patronage
So far, so Sputnik. However these two reasons alone won’t necessarily motivate someone to support the arts financially. I mean (the thought goes), why should we fund artists, when they should be able to fund themselves? Teachers and doctors don’t ask for handouts to help them do their jobs- if artists can’t make a living from what they do or make, surely they’re just not good enough.
This way of thinking isn’t helped by the fact that many people see artists through the lens of celebrity, and therefore assume that to be a successful artist it doesn’t just mean to make a living, but actually to become rich.
While, of course, this may be true for a few, they would be the tiny minority. The reality is that most artists who are producing interesting self-initiated projects are operating in a very similar way. These projects (particularly the ones that may shape culture in the way discussed) are not making them any money. On the contrary, they are trying to fund these through their day jobs- which are often much more mundane.
To put it quite simply, artistic excellence doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid, and artistic integrity often very specifically means not getting paid!
This is why systems of arts patronage are so crucial to the development of the arts. In the past, the Christian church has been a key patron of the arts, but in modern times, the government has taken on this role through grants, lottery funding, etc. Of course, the government is presently finding this burden too great to bear and is slashing arts funding left, right and centre.
artistic excellence doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid, and artistic integrity often very specifically means not getting paid!
I think that all of this may be telling us something: it’s time that the church took up such a role again. And we have a suggestion of how practically you can get involved in that.
Join us as an Arts Patron
In response to all of this, Sputnik is starting the Sputnik Patrons Scheme.
This is a fund set up primarily to help Christian artists get specific projects off the ground: from art installations to book publishing, theatre events to music releases. Each year we’ll commission several of these projects with the help of our network of Patrons, who donate monthly.
Who are in this mysterious network you may ask? Well, potentially, you! Next week, we will be kicking off the patronage scheme and if you’d like to support the arts and see more quality art out there made by Christians, we’d love it if you could get involved.
Sputnik Patrons will receive back benefits for their support, at three levels, gold, silver and bronze. These benefits will be outlined further when we launch the scheme, but in short, the more you pledge each month, the more you receive back.
For 2017-18, we have selected 4 projects that we’d like our Sputnik Patrons to invest in. We will give you more information of these in our next post, after which we’re going to explore this topic more on the blog, especially what patronage is, why it’s necessary for artists and what it looks like in the modern world.
So, we think that the arts are important enough for Christians to support financially. If you agree, why not become a Sputnik Patron and let’s see the church start to step back into its role as a patron of the arts.