Article 18 | The Arts
I never thought the music called “Jazz” was ever meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all the other dead things that were once artistic.
What is the role God created art for?
How can we make the sanctuary look sweet?
The Church is God’s redemptive community within the world and this redemption extends into the realms of space, time, and creativity. Modern secular culture tends to act in such a way that it reduces human beings into consuming agents. The corresponding result is that the majority of people in the culture and the church aren’t able to see themselves as creators or collaborators with God.
This market driven worldview has affected nearly all aspects of life and this capitalistic dimension has frequently reduced much of art purely to the aesthetic role. This is especially true within Christianity. Hence, even though many evangelical and protestant churches encourage the arts, this nearly always means the display of a local artists work within the church building, using graphic design elements within the Sunday worship program and bulletins, choreographing a dance, or maybe even commissioning a sculpture; but this is nearly always done with the sole intention of improving aesthetics. Although there is great value in the aesthetic importance of art, expanding the role of art to incorporate more fully its original and pre-capitalistic value is also a worthy goal.
The amazing gift of art is it’s ability to question perceived ideas about reality, to challenge genres of discourse, to make possible the emergence of new forms, voices, and perspectives for living. Thus, art as the postmodern philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard has commented, should be “Avant-garde in nature”, it should be actively creating space for the marginalized and silenced voices to speak, it should be challenging the prevailing norms of culture with an alternative heavenly perspective, a perspective that the Christian artist is developing with God through their spiritual transformation into Christlikeness.
Lastly, the artist’s role is valuable in communicating the unimaginable and the unseen. One of the functions of imagination is not just helping us to get our thinking straight so we can improve the world we live in, but to help us to see and then build a world God would prefer we all live. As a church community we have to intentionally seek out, support and inspire such creative activity. A proposition that seems joyful, since our faith and knowledge is built upon a world of invisibility with a God who is Spirit, Heaven, which is another dimension and angels, demons, and spiritual forces at work in our daily lives.
Recommended Reading: Walking on Water, by Madeline L’Engle and Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith by James Romaine.