In case you’re wondering what’s happened to your writers’ group, it’s been in transit recently. Yes, the electrons are being borrowed and routed from a completely different locale altogether, and I’m no longer able to jump on my unsuspecting neighbors’ wireless networks. Dang it. I was getting pretty comfy with the communal bandwidth thing. Serves me right, I guess, that there are now 5 in my general vicinity all of which are password protected. Doesn’t anyone trust people anymore? So basically, I’m back to the old dial-up for a while, so if this looks clunky you now know why.
What didn’t look clunky to me when it showed up in my mailbox the other day was the new Relevant magazine. Many, many awesome articles this month about living what we preach, not least of all, one by Craig Detweiler, film program director at Biola. This article is reason enough to go subscribe right now.
You think I’m being cute. Okay. This bit is from his article, "Life Outside the Faith Ghetto":
"The artistic community deals primarily with descriptive truth. Artists attempt to hold up a mirror, to reveal the human condition as is, quirks and all. While music, literature and film can inspire us to greater heights, they often begin by describing the depths of our depravity. Haunting and enduring art raises all the right questions and challenges audiences to search for answers."
I like what he’s suggesting here. There may be no such thing as a Christian artist community if we continue to believe we have all the answers to life. If we did, what would we need art for? Proselytize, assumedly. The community over at the Image forum has been dealing with the question "Should art do anything?" What is it’s purpose? Should artists and writers be motivated by questions rather than a desire to share a message? The question we’ve been concerned with here is "How will writers be allowed to search and question in the CBA when one of the requirements is that answers be given?" I’ve said it so often, but I’ll keep saying it: Christians have the greatest advantage in showing just how depraved and dark the evil can be without God, going to the extremes others can’t to express just how powerful this God is. Yes, He can redeem everything. But no, He didn’t answer all the questions. How much more compromise should we be paying to effectively subvert God’s power in our characters’ lives by diluting the darkness and pretending we know everything?
Christians do have the ultimate answer that God redeems everything. But if we really believe that, there should be no question of how much darkness we should be allowed to show redeemed. There is no real pit, no true evil, no horror, no suffering, no irreparable damage that isn’t merely unrevealed glory. Ignorance and doubt are only unrealized holiness. But does that mean we always see that in our day to day lives? Who among us understands this mystery? Who is not sometimes miserable with confusion? Is living easier since becoming a Christian? If so, I’m happy for you, but be aware that it might not always be so. Finding life with Christ cures a lot of what ails, but having some answers ultimately makes other things more difficult. You now have an ultimate hope in the realization of future redemption, but this world is still under darkness and your new understanding is not meant simply to make us complete. It is an urgent responsibility to seek out deeper faith with fear and trembling. And if you happen to be a fellow artist, I believe it’s doubly incumbent upon you to represent truthfully the difficult and chaotic world in which we all live.
In my opinion, the only reason for writing less than full, mysterious Goodness, Truth, and Beauty is if you’re currently in the writer’s lifestage of slowly easing your readers into your world, providing just enough certainty to prevent them blocking the door against you entirely. That’s a valid concern. But I’d hope that in a matter of time, the full definition of living in mystery would take over, even with those particularly resistant readers. The American music industry offers a great example of what Christian fiction will soon become, with fuzzy lines between Christian and non-Christian all over the place. (John Fischer has a great piece on this in the same Relevant mag issue mentioned above.) Soon, it will be even more necessary for responsible artists to provide deeply significant stories and aid readers in discerning truth from lies.
Even if you are starting slowly and building toward deeper truth, as Christian artists of significance, I believe it’s important to give your readers every reason to question what they thought they knew. Be encouraging wanderers, but confound assumptions to mature souls, and always portray Truth with love and care for your audience. As Christian Artists of Significance, this is the hope it is your honor to introduce. Respect your role and your world will be changed.
With hope and courage, I pray with you on your journey toward deeper fulfillment of your call.
P.S. Look for an interview coming soon with my good friend and recent published author, Siri Mitchell who will speak to "writing what you want in CBA—and getting away with it."