Many Christian artists live between two strange worlds. Their faith in Christ seems odd to many of their friends in the artistic community—almost as odd as their calling as artists seems to some of their friends at church. Yet Christians called to draw, paint, sculpt, sing, act, dance, and play music have extraordinary opportunities to honor God in their daily work and to bear witness to the grace, beauty, and truth of the gospel. How can pastors (and churches) encourage Christians with artistic gifts in their dual calling as Christian artists?
As a pastor and college president, I have made a sad discovery: the arts are not always affirmed in the life of the local church. We need a general rediscovery of the arts in the context of the church. This is badly needed because the arts are the leading edge of culture.
Not a new revelation to those of us who stand with one foot each in the church and artistic worlds. I’d rather qualify this a little further to say that its church leadership in particular that doesn’t affirm art by their church membership, not necessarily the body corporate itself.
That’s not important. I wanted to focus on this reason:
Demand artists to give answers in their work, not raise questions. Mark Lewis says, “Make certain that your piece (or artifact or performance) makes incisive theological or moral points, and doesn’t stray into territory about which you are unresolved or in any way unclear. (Clear answers are of course more valuable than questions).” Do not allow for ambiguity, or for varied responses to art. Demand art to communicate in the same way to everyone.
I’ve been on the receiving end of “can you clarify so we know it’s for JAYSUSS” imperatives from churchian gatekeepers, and I’ve witnessed, in real time and in person, the same phenomenon happen to others. My background is in music with some in journalism/writing and I can say since I’ve been involved that nothing much has changed for the better in either field.
It might be the western church’s fixation with reducing divine truths down to a series of propositions with which someone agrees or not, as a litmus test for racking up the conversion tally marks. While I think there are some things about God that we are granted to apprehend as a yes/no binary, the Bible portrays God as a being who carries the ontological bulk of himself on a much more transcendent level.
And this is where art might be important. It deals with material, binary things but can temporarily transcend it as someone consumes it. This is to say, if I can borrow a bit from Hegel, that the art plus the consumer synthesizes and produces a third thing. The task of the Christian artist could be to use art to synthesize faith within the consumer (or consideration of faith or to apprehend some sincere portrayal of it). Having a milquetoast buttinsky of a church elder come in with his red Sharpie and puritanize your short story* or still life for JAYSUSS kills the synthesis process and makes art a sermon rather than a productive dialogue** between art and consumer.
That’s fine if you want to write a sermon, but artists are not formal ministers nor preachers, and the church shouldn’t hammer them into that role.
Photo by Katie@!.
* Imagine what A Wrinkle In Time or Wise Blood would be like had a modern evangelical pastor got ahold of it. You can do it. I’ll wait until you’re finished.
** “Dialogue” is a horrible word for this because of the many modern usages in religious contexts but I’m using it anyways.
From a NYT article on the decline of certain word usage in literature:
I’d like to tell a story about the last half-century, based on studies done with this search engine. The first element in this story is rising individualism. A study by Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell and Brittany Gentile found that between 1960 and 2008 individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases.
That is to say, over those 48 years, words and phrases like “personalized,” “self,” “standout,” “unique,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself” were used more frequently. Communal words and phrases like “community,” “collective,” “tribe,” “share,” “united,” “band together” and “common good” receded.
The second element of the story is demoralization. A study by Pelin Kesebir and Selin Kesebir found that general moral terms like “virtue,” “decency” and “conscience” were used less frequently over the course of the 20th century. Words associated with moral excellence, like “honesty,” “patience” and “compassion” were used much less frequently.
Since I’m a lazy blogger I don’t feel like really delving into the study more, but I’m wondering if the researchers took some things into account. Did they bother to look at synonyms? Or if they words were negated somehow (“not collective”, “not decent”)? Or if the characters who said or thought the selfish words and phrases were portrayed negatively?
The spotlighted responses in the comments section are predictably from moral busybody-types: restless tut-tutting of the phantom “us” for falling short of some prescribed morality (probably their own). I guess wringing your hands about people you’ve never met who will never have any bearing on your life at all is a preferred way to pass the time.
Many people who self-publish right now are simply uploading their files and hoping for the best. I am self-publishing as if I were my own actual publishing company and doing every aspect of this perhaps even more professionally than a publishing company does things. I plan on describing the step-by-step in a separate post on what things I did here that are different than the average self-published (or even mainstream-published) book. So that’s why I decided to keep June 3 as the official release date.
That said, the book is ready now, I’m fascinated by Bitcoin as a “Choose Yourself” currency, and didn’t think it was a big deal to release it this way three weeks early. I don’t expect a lot of people will buy via Bitcoins (I don’t think that many people have Bitcoins) but I liked the idea of being the FIRST book in history to be, for a couple of weeks at least, only available on Bitcoin.
She chattered on with the appropriate disposition of a teenager displaced onto another world. This time she had to convince him that people on her planet dressed up like he does, just for fun, and got together in conspicuous groups to ogle one another. He ignored her as best he could when trying to vibe off that sweet wind at his back. He gave up and let out a potent fart. The drama of having a moment was ruined anyway.
A week later and his irritation at the whole scene transformed into full-blown hatred for circumstance. For therapy he descended in a dead freefall from an ungodly height to land on a random airship from a rival army. After killing everyone on board he crashed the ship and stole their mech. The experience granted him a temporary relief from the madness until he predicted she would find a way to wreck all of that to hell, too.