Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
It turned out to be someone with a great blog on the intersection of religion and art. I enjoyed what he wrote (except for the small-minded part about me, but oh well, if the shoe fits...). His idea was that good religious art (or any art) should flow from the heart and speak the voice of the artist. If the artist is a passionate evangelical Christian and s/he creates art with that voice, we should expect and celebrate that art even if it exists to elicit a response to the gospel invitation. Here's his words:
Artists, Christians and non-Christians alike, should do their best at making work that is in their voice, and that is all that has to be said about that. The work will be Christian, if it wants to be, just as the artist will be Christian if she or he wants to be.
That is very true. Good art flows from the heart and voice. But my contention is that there are too many Christians today not trying to make good art from their hearts. They are not trying to make art at all. They are creating poor pseudo-art just for the sake of evangelism.
Art can and should exist for itself.
You can read the blog and my response here.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
- Those who worship the Creator ought to be the most creative, and avoid copying the broader culture's art. And they DEFINITELY should not produce bad art.
- Christian propaganda art--art that exists to proselytize--should at best be rare. (I really want to say it shouldn't exist at all, but that's probably just an overreaction to the really bad Christian propaganda art out there.) Certainly art should point to God, truth, redemption, etc. But it should do so in a way that speaks softly to the soul, not bludgeons someone over the head. And it DEFINITELY should not be bad art.
- There really isn't such a definitive category as Christian art. What makes a book or a song Christian? How is a painting or a sculpture Christian? Do they have to mention Jesus? Do they have to overtly point to God or some biblical truth? Some people seem to think that a movie is not a Christian movie unless it has some blatant invitation to respond to the gospel, as if the Holy Spirit cannot work in subtle tones (see the second point above). There is really only good art, mediocre art, and bad art. And Christians should DEFINITELY not be making bad art.
- The American church needs to find a way to produce more artists, and provide for those whose art engages our worship and enhances our connection to God. Then we need to kill the whole "safe and fun for the whole family" Christian music subculture and challenge those artists who are truly musically gifted and called to be salt and light in the broader music industry.
Let me close with this extended quote from Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island:
There is only one reason why this [art helps with spiritual formation] is completely true: art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul into a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some sense explains. Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. The genius of the artist finds its way by the affinity of creative sympathy, or conaturality, into the living law that rules the universe. This law is nothing but the secret gravitation that draws all things to God as to their center. Since all true art lays bare the action of this same law in the depths of our own nature, it makes us alive to the tremendous mystery of being, in which we ourselves, together with all other living and existing things, come forth from the depths of God and return again to Him. An art that does not produce something of this is not worthy of its name.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Let me tell you about one of them. Yesterday we had about 50 guests on campus during our normal chapel time. They were family and friends of the Jimenez and De la Cruz families. Forty years ago, Pablo Jimenez and Juan De la Cruz were students at what was then the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute, now Baptist University of the Americas. On March 25, 1967, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, they left our campus early in the morning heading south for the two churches the men pastored in Cotulla and Carrizo Springs. The two families crowded 12 people into one car for the trip. But minutes later a drunk driver slammed into the full station wagon.
10 of the 12 passengers died, along with the driver of the other car. Two children survived, one from each family. Those two girls, now women, both shared in yesterday's service, along with other family and school leaders from that era. It was a moving and powerful service.
Then, right after, as everyone was walking from the chapel to the cafeteria for lunch, Dr. H.B. Ramsour, president of the school when the tragedy occurred, stumbled and fell in the parking lot. Dr. Ramsour is a spry 96 year old (I hope if I live to 96 I have his health and mental acumen!), but most people lose a fight with asphalt. He was taken to the hospital and had several stitches put in, but is recuperating fine now.
While emotionally draining, it is powerful to see men and women whose lives were changed by the message of Jesus, and who have lived and died in pursuit of God and his kingdom. They are heroes of the best kind.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
On the way to Ruidoso, we listened to Rich Mullins, one of my favorite spiritual composers and singers. He has a song where he compares his own childhood to Jesus', wondering aloud if Jesus cried when he skinned his knee and if he ever made snow angels.
Well, did You grow up hungry? Did You grow up fast?
Did the little girls giggle when You walked past?
Did You wonder what it was that made them laugh?
And did they tell You stories 'bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight.
Then a day later I'm reading N.T. Wright's book Simply Christian. Many friends have told me that I will really enjoy Tom Wright's writing, and so far he hasn't disappointed. In a chapter about Jesus, Wright hints that Jesus may have wondered about his own sanity. Now that's the kind of thinking that will get you in trouble with the fundies but is dead on for us understanding fully the humanity of Jesus. Jesus was tempted in every way just like we are, which means he at some point wondered if he might be totally nuts thinking that he was fulfilling God's redemptive plan.
I'm glad he wasn't.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I finished reading "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" today. It is the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan Tutsi who survived the genocide by hiding with 7 other women in a bathroom that was 4 feet by 3 feet for 3 months. Incredible story.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Jesus didn't develop his logic in a theoretical or philosphical sense like an Aristotle; rather his logic was at the deeper more practical level. It was geared toward encouraging life-changing "eureka" moments in his listeners. "That is, he does not try to make everything so explicit that the conclusion is forced down the throat of the hearer. Rather, he presents matters in such a way that those who wish to know can find their way to, can come to, the appropriate conclusion as something they have discovered" (The Great Omission, p. 183).
Perhaps this affects my big issues with Evangelical evangelism and the modern church's strategies for sharing the gospel--it tries to logically argue to force the right conclusion. It focuses on the point-of-sale transaction. We try to lead people in our discussions, instead of allowing the person and the Spirit to connect in their own "eureka" moment. Honestly, I think that people come to faith in Jesus in spite of us much of the time.
Jesus never took this approach. He never shied away from conflict or truth, but he spoke in such a way that made space for people to have their own "eureka" moments.
"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Matthew Quigly, Quigley Down Under
I had an interesting conversation this week with a friend who is a Missions Pastor, meaning that he is the leader of our church's evangelistic efforts. It was a great conversation (involved 18 points with Mr. Green) where we were getting to know each other and finding out about how God's story has played out in each of our lives.
Now those of you who know me know that I sometimes rail against "evangelism" as it is often defined and done in the modern evangelical church. The theology that says the gospel is primarily about the forgiveness of sins in order to get into heaven when you die can lead to practices that work to manipulate a decision to get those sins forgiven, and this becomes known as evangelism. That's an overstatement, I'm sure, especially in my friend's case, as he didn't fully disagree with what I said. But not always. Evangelism, the sharing of the good news, has often degenerated into proselytization, the converting of a person from one club into another. I don't think that this is good, and told my friend as much. For me, evangelism is about sharing the good news that Jesus has liberated us from our sins AND our sin--the individual acts that are wrong AND the habitual tendency to want to be our own gods and write our own stories for life, irrespective of the One True God's wishes and plans.
Later my friend asked me if I was sitting with someone who asked me what they needed to know about this God of mine, what would I say? Great question!
Like many things in life, it reminded me of a movie, Quigley Down Under. It's a great flick with Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, and probably my favorite bad-guy actor, Alan Rickman (excellent in the villian role in this movie, Robin Hood and Die Hard) as Elliott Marsten. This cowboy movie set in Australia is the king of one-liners, and I won't go into them all here. But the climactic scene in the movie is at the very end, when Marsten wants to draw down with Quigley in a gunfight. Quigley's favorite weapon is a long rifle, and earlier when Marsten talks about Col. Colt's revolver, Quigley says he never had much use for one. So when he outdraws Marsten and shoots him, Marsten looks quizzically up at Quigley as he bleeds all over the desert, and Tom Selleck deadpans the line I quote above.
It would be a mistake to think that because I don't have any use for evangelism (in the consumeristic, modern, conservative, evangelical use of the term) that I don't know how to "use" it. The good news is the good news, and it is absolutely worth telling in every way possible, including using words.