Los Angeles native Jonathan Bock has visited Italy many times, and he's always floored by its wealth of great art—masterpieces at every turn, much of it connected to the church. Son of the late Fred Bock (one of America's best known church musicians), Bock first learned to appreciate art from his father, and because "My mom dragged me to every gallery and museum in Los Angeles and New York and Europe."
Now 42, Bock, founder and president of Grace Hill Media (a PR firm that helps Hollywood studios reach the faith market), wants more Christians involved in the arts—as creators, appreciators, and, in his latest endeavor, supporters. Bock founded the nonprofit organization As1 to encourage the church to embrace its historical role as patrons of the arts—particularly movies and tv.
"In Italy, you see evidence everywhere that there was a time when the church partnered with the artistic community to create timeless, transcendent art," he says. "But today's relationship between the church and Hollywood is a long way from that. Not as far as we used to be, but we've got a ways to go. I feel like Christians need to understand what their role can be as patrons of the arts"—especially when Tinseltown makes movies that the church can embrace.
Question & Answer
Define a modern-day "patron of the arts."
In the 16th century, it was a rich guy in tights with a coin purse. Today, you see signs in movie theaters: Thank you for your patronage. It's the customer, the ticket-buying audience. One ticket does not make a difference, but if we Christians are buying as one, we choose what becomes a hit. If we want our stories told well by the best artists, we should reward them with generous commissions.
Why should we support an artistic community that often seems opposed to our faith and values?
Hollywood doesn't care who they sell a ticket to, as long as it makes money. Once we understand that, we can be in a place where instead of waiting for culture to offend us, we can be participants in where culture leads.
What are projects to consider supporting?
The American Bible Challenge is the No. 1 show on Game Show Network. In March, we've got The Bible, a 10-hour miniseries on the History Channel. There are big-budget films in the works on Noah [starring Russell Crowe], Moses [directed by Steven Spielberg], and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Will we make these projects massive hits, or will we passively stand by and squander this extraordinary moment?
But what if these movies are garbage? Should we support them just because they are religiously themed?
We should support good art. There's nothing worse than a crappy movie. How "biblical" or "nonbiblical" is the content is trickier. When Michelangelo sculpted the Pietà, there was some scandal because he portrayed Mary as a 16-year-old girl holding a 33-year-old dead man. That's neither biblically nor historically accurate. But that sculpture is extraordinary, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
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