I’m, by a nature, an outdoors person. Whether I’m walking, running, kayaking, hiking, canoeing, or SITTING, I love communing with my mind, my God, and my heart within the sanctuary of nature. It is not so much an escape as it is a cleansing and filtering of the day; conscious and subconscious.
While walking the nature preserve next to my neighborhood, enjoying its vibrant and teeming ecosystem, my mind wandered to the subject of art, pleasure, and purpose. So, as I am prone to do…I meandered.
Please note, these thoughts address the arts from a Christian perspective. They are the opinions of an individual who serves his Christian community with and through artists and the arts.
Art, generally speaking, provides an emotional and/or reflective experience for an observer because it is typically birthed from a bed of emotion and/or thought within the creator. The work of creating an artistic expression is an inner collaborative process of the maker’s psyche; mental, emotional, and spiritual, partnering with the maker’s physical efforts to create a tangible and/or experiential product. Simply put, an artist is compelled to get the idea(s) out of their inner selves and put it outside of themselves for someone else to receive.
The act of intentionally presenting art for public consumption should be compelled by a desire to promote and/or achieve a higher purpose within the individuals or the community; either an elevation of thought or the illumination of understanding. If the originating purpose of presenting a work of art is rooted in an exclusive desire to achieve nothing other than personal pleasure or gain, then the artist (defined as one having a gift to weave thought and emotion for the purpose of compelling sensation) has abandoned the programming of Original Design and is pandering to and promoting self-love which destroys Christian community and embraces atheistic humanity. There is no legacy. There is no worth. There is no significance. There is nothing more than an undulating emotional wave that will break itself in time leaving no trace of good…but potentially helps to pave the path for others to pursue the same destructive course of self-love.
In the corporate worship experience of the Church, the enduring artistic works have come to represent altars of remembrance of God’s grace, mercy, and presence in our lives’ circumstances. This is an effectual gift of God to us. How many times do we hear songs, or read poems, or view images that result in an edifying “flashback” of interventions in our lives we know to be the work of God? There is a risk, however, in sequestering these works and our creative artistic efforts for this sole purpose. We must work to avoid permitting the arts to only PRESERVE a culture of faith. If they cease to do more than safeguard anthropological exercises of preferred religious ritual, then we are back to self-love and a sense of godlessness in the things about which we become passionate. The arts in worship should always present a God that is ALIVE and PRESENT; presently engaging the culture for the purpose of redeeming it and restoring it.
Therefore, it should not be our desire, the artist or the worshiper, to offer each other, or our God, the same songs, same offerings, same gifts over and over for they begin to cost us nothing in spirit, thought, or effort. Such a practice is the result of ignorance to Truth and an absence of Relationship. In the Old Testament, you will find that offerings presented in worship were offered, left, and consumed. To come again meant to come with something new and, important to note, something that was the result of purposeful effort, process, preparation, and thought.
Brief aside: Regarding the contemporary and modernist trends that have been developing in Christian art and corporate worship for decades; though I do not believe that the arts should archive history, we should be careful not to reject the works of the past. It is important to recognize the significance of their testimony. No act of God is disposable and, therefore, no work of art conceived from His intervention in a believer’s life should be either. Consumable? Yes. Disposable? Absolutely not. Though we know His mercies are new every morning, yesterday’s mercy delivered the morning to us.