November 30, 2010 |

Keeping the Faith

W. Ann Reynolds once said, “Anyone who says you cannot see a thought simply doesn’t know art.” For those creative persons who have ever held a brush, camera, pencil, or script in their hand, they know this to be true.

Poets, painters, writers, teachers, performers, filmmakers, and communicators of all kind have this unquenchable desire – a calling really – to report back to others their observations, thoughts, and ideas. They just can’t stop themselves from doing this.

Like an artesian well, what is on the inside of their hearts and souls comes boiling out, splattering on the canvas and the page, and dancing across the stage or the screen. It is an inescapable burn that must be shared with others that they too will be enlightened and warmed by the artist’s own discovery. The prophet Jeremiah might have called this a “fire in the bones.”

So the skillful artist is not necessarily the one with the best thoughts or ideas, the biggest public platform or the one who is a mass of pure talent. It is the one who can communicate his or her ideas to others. It is the one who can translate what is within – the glory and the madness – for others to see, hear, and experience for themselves.

We people of faith need more artists in our number. Oh, and I don’t mean the cheese-makers that fill up the shelves of the local Christian bookstores. The parade of greeting cards, neck ties, stationary, wind chimes, monograms, t-shirts, necklaces, charm bracelets, wall hangings, and carvings that spews from commercial Christianity’s warehouses and passes as art is stale, sappy, and downright embarrassing. Bach and Michelangelo would be ashamed.

And save us, sweet Jesus, from another bible-verse-inscribed-sun-setting landscape portrait or one of those dauntless lighthouses paintings amidst iridescent clouds. I’ve had enough of that smelly limburger as well.

Instead, we need a spiritual renaissance. We need genuine artists, those who can skillfully open their souls to communicate their experience of faith. We need people in the pew and preachers from the pulpit who, though they may not be able to use a brush, make a rhyme, play a note, or write a book, they can still creatively and beautifully translate their hearts for the world to read.

See, each of us has a unique journey of faith. Each of us has a story to tell and a picture to paint. Each of us has a masterpiece of faith on the inside that could be shared with others. This is art, this is communication, and it is so badly needed today.

For while there is a lot of talking, preaching, blogging, conferencing, and shouting in the world of faith, there is not much creative communication. The artists of faith have been replaced by the legalists and the dogmatists.

By nature, dogma does not lend itself to creative expression. It is hard and unmoving. It is as closed as a padlocked gate. It refuses to allow doubt or question marks. It is dead and Spiritless. But faith allows for the freedom to speak from what is in the soul. Faith is alive and explorative. Faith is art.

And when faith, just like art, is good, it does something that pontificating, Bible-thumping, and finger-pointing can’t do. It makes you want to get in on it. It motivates you to pick up the brush and give it a try for yourself. It causes you to hum along to the music or stop and look at the painting. Yes, faith can do the same as good art, where the objective is not to coax, convert, or condemn, but to simply share the experience of your heart.

Of course the only way this will happen is brutal vulnerability. The artist, and people of faith, must take the risk of being criticized, scoffed at, and having their work – the very bearings of the soul – unappreciated. But how much beauty would be robbed from the world if courageous artists did not give their hearts and experiences away to others? It would be a tragedy.

Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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