Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Connecting Some Dots

Stone CairnEvery couple of weeks I attend an artist’s gathering. We discuss faith, art, faith & art. We have no other agenda except to cross-pollinate one another as brothers & sisters in Christ, and in creativity. We work in all different media; dance & movement, film & video, photography & painting, collage/mixed-media, literature & poetry, theatre & music. Because our gatherings aren’t about how, but about what & why, a lot of good stuff rubs off on one another.

Recently we were talking about a 3-minute video by Parker Palmer; The Tragic Gap. He talks about the extremes of what he calls corrosive cynicism and irrelevant idealism and what it takes to walk in balance between them. I’ve bumped into various forms of the same idea from other sources. As a global thinker, what I am seeing is an emerging larger picture. Here I’m simply trying to connect some dots.

Palmer says this, “So we have to stand in this place between what is and what could and should be. But we have to stand there without flipping out on one side or the other. To flip out on the side of too much reality is to be drawn into corrosive cynicism… To flip out on the other side toward what could and should be is to fall into… irrelevant idealism. …they [both] take us to the same place – which is out of action. They disengage us from this place in the gap where we need to stand in order to move things forward.”

Most of the time when I hear a call for balance, I am usually reminded of the life of Christ. It’s a walk that doesn’t get sucked into either the agendas of the world, or the Church, for example. It’s a life willing to suffer the slings and arrows of those who one minute call the artist friend and the next minute, foe. It’s not a life for the fainthearted. This is the creative life, the life of the artist of faith, full of risks, patronizing compliments, and biting criticism, but it is the life to which many of us are called.

Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer

Palmer goes on to remind us that by living in our own heads we can easily slip into one or the other; corrosive cynicism or irrelevant idealism. He offers this advice, “It is only in communities that we’re going to have a balance to check and correct our own self-perceptions.” This is one of the many reasons we faith-driven artists get together every couple of weeks, not to sit around and agree on everything, but to be respectfully honest with one another.

Author and lecturer Calvin Seerveld adds; “…truly God-praising artistry can flourish only when the artist is deeply embedded both in an artistic community and in the wider, societal communion of sinner saints.” Rainbows for the Fallen World pg 26-28.

To my mind, the Lord is calling us to walk as living sacrifices in tension or balance between many extremes, any one of which does not, by itself, guide culture toward any common good. He is calling us to walk, as Christ did, seeking first His face, and then simply giving Him whatever creative meaning we make without worrying about who it will affect, or how it will affect them. That’s the business of the Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that, our “job” is simply to live intimately with Him and give our work as an offering which He will do with as he wishes.

I am not saying that artists should forgo compensation; that’s not what I mean. We have financial needs just like everybody else. But I am saying, as do many others, that the “fame & fortune” however great or small is simply not the point.

The point resides in our own faith-filled walk with Him and in the art we make as a result of that walk.


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