Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some thoughts on art and Christianity.

Spend a little time in art school or around serious artists and you will realize something: art is their religion. It's their god. I'm serious. The people I sat under in class shared their stories with us over the course of many semesters and I heard so many stories about the sacrifices they made for their art. Some of them put aside money each month for art funds to make their own art or support other artists (does that sounds a bit like tithing?). Talk to an artist for a short time and they will start singing the praises of art and let you know that it's a part of their lives. Because it's usually their whole lives and such a huge part of their identity that they can't help but talk about it (does that sound a bit like evangelism?). They believe no sacrifice is too great for their work (does that sound lot like worship?). One professor shared that when money got really tight he lived out of his car for awhile rather than stop making art to work more or taking money out of his art fund to pay rent. He believed that if he kept working and kept trying that someday he would make it work out somehow. That takes a lot of commitment. You wouldn't do that for something if it wasn't the most important thing in your life. Stories like these were not that uncommon amongst my professors and some of the students.

I had some classmates who threw themselves into their work. They worked SO HARD and it never seemed like it was enough so they worked even harder. They were incredibly dedicated to their work and their art. You see, in art school if you completed the assignments exactly as they were given that was an automatic C. You had to go above and beyond to earn an A. And I had some classmates who were bound and determined to get those As. I also had some classmates who were fine with the Cs. Or even Ds. Classes weren't quite that important to them and ceramics and art in general was an interest but not their whole life. I saw (and was guilty myself for judging people this way) classmates and professors get so irritated with those students. Things were said about those students like, "why are they even doing this? If they aren't really interested go study something else." They expected an all or nothing attitude from everyone who considered themselves to be an artist. It seemed that in some ways they based how moral you were on how dedicated you were to your work. It's kind of funny to me now. It seems that it's okay to be somewhat interested in other fields...if you want to be in college and have a life go study science or English or a language. But you must be 110% devoted to art or you pretty much aren't worthy of studying it.

So this is really convicting for me. I've rarely seen such a devout commitment in Christians. If our church couldn't meet it's monthly financial commitments I don't think any of us would decide to live out of our cars rather than not fulfill those commitments. I don't think that would even cross our minds as an option. We just say that God will provide. And it's true that we don't do things on our own strength and that God is powerful enough to make anything He wants to happen come to fulfillment. My question is where is our...okay, MY heart? Am I really willing to give everything I have to the glory of God or do I just pay that lip service and do my own thing? And I think that while we say we are all in 100% as Christians, I wonder if when people meet us it is that obvious to them that we are committed to following Jesus? Is that something that flows out in our conversations because it's our identity? When you spend a few hours getting to know someone how long does it take to learn what they're passionate about? Is their faith one of those things? Is it at the top of the list of their passions? Is it at the top of my list of passions? And if not, what is?

Last year I was flying to visit my parents and one of my seatmates on the plane was this man who after a moment or two of small talk asked me if I was an artist. I was kind of surprised and asked him why he thought that and he said he had two cousins who were artists and something about me was like them. He could just tell. I didn't think I looked particularly artsy or anything and he had hardly just sat down before asking me that. I'm still stumped as to what it was about me that said "artist" to him. But it makes me wonder, within moments of meeting me does anyone think "Christian?"

I want them to notice that about me. When I think about my professors' irritation at students who were halfhearted in their work I can't help but think of the verse in Revelation 3:15-16  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. It's not enough in the art world to be kind of interested. You have to be passionate. It's the sign that you are in it. I just want to see that same commitment and passion in myself for following Jesus. The willingness to do any and every hard thing because it's worth it.

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