Thursday, June 7, 2007

Changing The World Through Art?

By Guest Blogger - - Todd Dufrene

A Christian Framework For Creativity

Far be it from me to be the heartless old salt who steals the innocence from all of the wide eyed idealists out there, (funny, but you know there's always a but after a statement like that) but I'm afraid I have some bad news for all you budding artistic types who envision your art changing the world. Of course I am confidant that most of you are intelligent enough that after several years of banging your collective head against the stone wall of human nature you will figure it out for yourselves. But, here I offer you a shortcut to the wisdom it took me years to acquire and etch into my cavernous cranial cavity.

The weaker among you should look away now. For the stouthearted among us, here is the ugly truth.

It is a great fantasy to dream that we will make that ultimate irresistible argument, or that we will produce that work of art so profound that people will gaze upon it, or read it, or listen to it, whichever the case may be, and be forced to acknowledge that there is a God and that His nature is as revealed to us in Holy writ. But, that is all it is – fantasy and dreams.

It may be unrealistic to think that our artistic creations will ever change even one person's heart and mind. Correct me if I'm wrong, but examples of a piece of art causing a conversion or directly impacting the culture at large are pretty rare. “Uncle Tom's Cabin” comes to mind. But, other than the once in a generation anomaly, art pretty much is preaching to the choir. I believe it is a false hope to think that because my creativity reaches a certain level that people will all of the sudden 'see the light'.

I see two ways that lives are actually changed. In fact there is only one way, through the work of the Holy Spirit, but He usually uses one of two means, or more likely, a combination of the two - the preaching of the Word of God and the observation of a well lived Christian life.

Can God use our artistry to nudge, cultivate, water, nourish and so forth? Absolutely. Should our art reflect the true nature of God and His creation? Absolutely. Can our art be salt and light and provide an alternative to the endless onslaught of Godless art. Absolutely. Can the collective body of our God honoring art help foster a more Godly perspective in this world's collective consciousness? Perhaps. At least that is a more reasonable expectation than instant conversion or cultural shift because of a single piece of art.

I do not propagate these harsh truths to discourage any one from pursuing their artistic passion. On the contrary, I am more excited than ever about what the future holds for me regarding my creativity. Unfettered from the codependent need to save anyone or to change the world, I have the freedom to simply follow my God given creative urges wherever He leads me and leave the job of changing people to their Creator.

Enjoy your creativity. Revel in it. Treasure it as the gift of God that it is. Do it as unto The Lord. Do it with all of your heart, mind and strength, but keep it in proper perspective.

As for me, I do not create with the thought of nor the purpose of impacting anyone. I create because I am a creation of a creative being who created me in His creative image. I am compelled to create because it is in my nature. I am compelled to create Godly art because I have chosen to allow His nature to rule my nature. And, if that is indeed the case, then hopefully my creative expression will honor Him and bear good fruit.

-Todd Dufrene


dayle james arceneaux said...

Thanks Todd,

I hope that my intentions are not mis-interpreted when I say I'm called to write Christian fiction. It would be great arrogance for me to think that I can produce something that will have people lining up to accept Christ.

But to be used by God for even a small contribution would be a great honor.

I don't mind preaching to the choir - that is called ministry. And if God will grant my work the privledge of providing the nudge, the cultivation, the water, the nourishment, etc. then I have answered my call.

There is a difference between creating as a ministry or creating as a natural manifestation of one's desires and abilities. Both can be of great value, but one claims a higher level of responsibility to create at the behest of the Holy Spirit.

Mike Duran said...

Todd, you're absolutely right about art not "causing a conversion." But "directly impacting the culture" is another story. I'd suggest that art is deeply embedded in our cultural psyche -- some stories, films, songs, paintings have shaped (at least, reflected) how we view and interpret life. In the microcosm, art can play an important part in the conversion process.

No doubt, people are changed through the Holy Spirit and the witness of a life well-lived. But there's many other steps along the path of conversion. Scripture says that "the heavens declare the glory of God." General revelation is as much revelation as the "special" kind. In that, we shouldn't underestimate the awe and order a mountain range, sunset, or forest can evoke in the sensitive soul. Since God uses the heavens to declare His glory, isn't an artistic rendition of said heavens as much "Godly art" as is one of the cross?

Todd said...

Good to hear from you Mike.

Looking back, I should have used the phrase “molding and shaping the culture”. Art does have a minimal impact, but that is mostly in reinforcing and stirring up what is already in the mind and heart of the 'true believer' (preaching to the choir). As far as the whole 'does art shape or reflect the culture' question, I would say the two, in a way, egg each other on, but end the end it is still a microcosm of our culture, or perhaps a gage of by which to measure a culture's rise and decline.

To take your last point a bit further, I believe that our art is a poor reflection of His art. And, even His art, though it majestically and truthfully declares His glory, is still responsible for few, if any, recorded conversions or shaping of cultures. Our art, like nature, can indeed stir man's wonderment and latent longing for a creator at times, but conversion ... that may be another matter.