Faith is a great percolator of creativity. I’m passionate about Christians being confident and free in using their talents to express who Jesus is, to blazon the Kingdom of heaven with broad, colourful strokes for the world to see.
That’s why the Colourful Church blog exists.
But I have a problem; Christian art can be the worst around. And I don’t just mean the clichéd airbrushed images of doll in manger surrounded by dopey looking animals and naked flying babies.
Creativity isn’t always artistic, which is ok, but art isn’t always creative, which is not ok.
Art should be creative, it should lead us somewhere. If art makes statements, even important statements, but doesn’t tell a story bigger than itself that invites or provokes a response then it doesn’t create anything, so isn’t creative.
Simplicity is a good thing, but Christian art can sometimes fall into a trap of being too formulaic and too explained. Too set-conclusion, too told-what-to-believe, too one-dimensional.
We follow a God who’s immensely creative, that’s obvious. He is the Word who created the universe so His nature is firstly perfect love and secondly immense creativity. God, the original Artist, created everything to draw us all into an un-robotic free will relationship, a communion, a loving dialogue. Our art must be the same. It’s ok for art to be driven by a clear and stated message but dogmatism robs art of its impact. By all means make it clear what it is we’re interpreting, but please don’t tell us how to interpret it! We need something fresh.
So what’s our example for creative open-endedness? For any Christian Jesus is a good place to start.
For the three years before his death in which he walked our trails in flesh and blood his big mission was to paint a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven and invite commoners into it (“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?…” Luke 13:18-20). He was a great parable-teller.
Now, about parables. There’s a common misconception that a parable is a simple story that illustrates a principle. They’re more than that, and the meaning of a true parable isn’t always immediately obvious.
In fact, Jesus said he deliberately told parables to bury the deep truths of the Kingdom inside a yarn, so only those to whom the ‘secret of the Kingdom had been given’ would understand. Only those whose hearts were open to his call to the Kingdom of Heaven would see below the top layers of their culturally influenced interpretation of his stories to the beautifully revolutionary message and pattern of life he was expressing (see Mark 4:10-12).
Don’t get me wrong, I know we have a message to communicate. I know that art is only as powerful as it is purposeful. Yes, faith is a great percolator of creativity, but please paint a picture that makes me ask questions.
I love Rembrandt’s art. He paints with wild, bold, dark strokes snippets of stories that are equally wild, puzzling and compelling. Paul, sitting in prison in front of the sword of his martyrdom, pondering what to write to churches. Bartholomew with his execution knife, Simon with a large cross saw, the disciples struggling against the perfect storm, while Jesus sleeps! “Jesus why are you sleeping?” I ask. “Jesus how are you still sleeping?!” I wonder.
I will leave you with a work of beauty. A parable like this, rich and deep with layers of truth and beauty, is a rare thing. One of the best Christian videos I have seen in a long time:
Read the full transcript on the Colourful Church blog –
The Great Divorce – A Parable In Film.
What do you think? Have I just confused you? Leave a comment.