“Our truest responsibility to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find the truth.”—Madeleine L’Engle
Some people believe books are delivered by great white storks to the doorsteps of shops and libraries. When I meet one of them and mention that I am a writer, I receive a startled look, as if I have revealed a scandalous secret concerning the origin of literature. These encounters remind me why our Christian communities need to be open to a dialogue about creativity, culture and faith.
As a writer, much of my time is spent alone. I wrestle with language, specific words, literary forms, and how to communicate with a reader. As a Christian and a writer, I need a community of voices to help me stay the course. I need mentors who speak with the wisdom of experience, and readers who may not be artists themselves, but who offer a critical and supportive eye to my work. These—along with fellow artists who are passionate about their work—are the chorus that reminds me I am not alone as a Christ-follower and an artist.
As J. A. C. Redford, a composer and a Christian, writes,
“[A]n artist who would follow Christ needs the community of faith, both to hold him in orbit as he explores the outer reaches of his imagination, and to hold a mirror up to his own flawed humanity . . . The community of faith in turn needs believing artists to gift it with fresh and pungent ways to see and speak the truth, to stretch the perimeters of its compassion and give imaginative shape to its moral vision, to hold it accountable to a higher standard of beauty. . . .”1
Many churches have grown creatively impoverished because they are suspicious of artists, viewing them as a liability instead of a resource. In response, artists often abandon their church community, seeking acceptance and encouragement elsewhere. If a community of faith desires to foster creativity, it must be hospitable towards the arts. The engineers, teachers, economists, parents, and pilots, must be open to poets, musicians, painters, and filmmakers.
A host of resources are available to communities of faith who desire to grow creatively, such as the International Arts Movement, founded by visual artist Makoto Fujimura. IAM is committed to cultivating dialogue between communities of faith and their artists. Theologians like musician Jeremy Begbie champion a biblical theology of, and for, the arts—calling churches out of their “historical amnesia” toward art. Events such as Worship Central, in London, and the Hillsong Conference, based in Sydney, equip leaders with a passion to lead musical worship. And conductor Masaaki Suzuki, who founded the Bach Collegium Japan in 1990, is a remarkable example of an artist who is passionate about the Gospel, yet lauded all over the world as a respected musician and authority on the music of J. S. Bach.
As a Christian community, we must learn again to explore and share the Gospel through the arts. As author Bret Lott states, “the making of art . . . is an act of worship in and of itself; it is an act of humility and joy at once; and, in the life of the believer, it is accomplished as a gift back to the Creator who made us.”2
I believe creativity and artists will once again flourish in their communities of faith, and I hope to hear a chorus of voices from church leaders, theologians, and those who believe in storks declare, “Welcome.”
- J. A. C. Redford, “Foment,” ImageJournal.org, no. 38 (Spring 2003) [↩]
- Lauren F. Winner, “Art for God’s Sake,” ChristianityToday.com, March 24, 2010 [↩]
Anneli Horner has an MCS in Interdisciplinary Studies from Regent College in Vancouver. She is currently working on an MFA in Creative Writing at City University in Hong Kong.