Two years ago, at this same season, I was working on my faith-art-life puzzle from a thoroughly different angle:
How do we make a place, a collective space, to spur those of us who are interested to make ever-greater art to the glory of God?
I don’t have a clue.
Likely because this may not be the starting question to ask… in my previous careers, finding the right question to answer starts to unlock all the needed doors. Then we can ransack the contents and build the answer!
No doors have opened yet… but other questions have come. Which makes a reasonable substitute.
1. What is this “art to the glory of God?” Is this solely faith-focused art? Or art made by people of faith? What if the art looks to God and the artist does not?
2. Is there a “means test” of faithfulness required here? That is, how much of a believer do you have to be to qualify?
3. Why wouldn’t a normal critiquing setup work? Is there something special about being Christian that requires a separate room?
1. The “art for God” question is a stumper. Since even Madeline L’Engle couldn’t nail it down when she was older and more widely read/listened to than I, I plan to write this one off with a gloss from her writing. Given the slipperiness of grappling with what my information-cataloging professor called “aboutness,” it’s clearer to define the community: people of Christian faith who want to engage with others who share that faith PLUS the desire to make the best art they can make. Which starts to sound like a standard critiquing group.
3. A normal critiquing setup might work well enough. I suspect that’s what most practicing Christian artists who want to be pushed use. But there is something special about connecting one’s art into one’s faith, that goes even farther into the tender places in one’s psyche than one’s created darlings live. Critiquing groups can be difficult, difficult places. The discipline of addressing the work while setting aside the human creating the work is challenging; the discipline of handing over the work and seeing clearly that one is NOT the same creature as one’s art is even more challenging. Add to that the expressed intertwining of one’s profound connection to God… how do you bring work like that to a group that doesn’t accept your first premise (that God exists)? Too easy to be derailed into evangelism when the immediate question is: does this glorify God as wonderfully as I can make it do so?
2. A “means test” is always problematic, not to mention how Jesus set a precedent in declaring us a hospital for the sick, not a club for the saved (Mark 2:17). I think it would be enough to attach the label “Christian,” so that anyone who chooses to engage knows that Christian faith will be part of the gig.
Once upon a time I trained to be an English teacher, and learned about writing process for the classroom. I can see my textbook from here; I think it’s time to get that down and start flipping through it again. Establishing the ground comforts me when I’m flailing -!
Remembering my training sent another bit flitting past: there’s the refining phase (including critiquing), and the publication phase. I think, though, that will wait for another wrestling match.
I did indeed pull down my texts, dust off my curriculum development skills, and assemble Focused Devotion, which I taught four lessons of to a tiny, encouraging group in February 2015. And I worked with a dear friend to host a Christian art sharing time she called “8 Minutes Max,” which we held sort of quarterly from May 2014 into summer 2015. But it didn’t seem to be quite time for either of them. It’ll be interesting to find out what becomes of them in the future!
…this is where my brain really is tonight…
And we will smoke them all
With an intellect and a savoir-faire
No one in the whole universe
Will ever compare
I am yours now and u are mine
And together we’ll love through
All space and time, so don’t cry
—from 7, Prince Rogers Nelson, 1958-2016