How does a Christian Artist avoid "friendship with the world"? Being "in the world, but not of it"?
As a one with a degree in Philosophy I almost choke on my own question -- the amount of presuppositions and implicit assumptions upon which that question rests, as well as all the undefined elements (to the question), is huge. But I think I kinda like asking it that way, for that reason.
Involved in the question are my unexpressed notions that Christian Artists somehow interact with the world, such that they could be at risk of becoming "friends with the world" (whatever that means, since I have not yet explained that phrase). Well, I would certainly hope the Christian Artist, in one sense, is always at risk of being friends with the world in which they are, but are not of.
But here is where the storyteller has to take over the philosopher. I was thinking the other morning, in a flight of fancy, about the old descriptive chestnut,
"that [child] has a lot of their daddy in them."
I began considering how the Christian ontology changes the way we speak, even on such a level as making such expressions as that near meaningless, if not judgmental and wrong. I started wondering how such colloquialism at one time provided an ability to make declarative, "naming" statements which imparted (facets of) identity. As humans (and especially as artists) we are made to call out -- ex-nihilo of the conceptual / intellectual landscapes and emotional ethers (in the fashions of ones created in the image of a creator God and bearing His creative stamp) -- the truth and identity and even worth of (created) things.
See, here is where the real "Existential Rub" comes in for me. Frederick Buechner wrote a book which spoke to me in the final year of my father's life, "Longing for Home." In it Buechner describes a moment of shared joy, an experience of joy his wife and daughter and himself all felt at watching a killer whale leap from the water into air, before crashing back down into the water. In this book, and in other, fictional works, Buechner explores what it means to long for a fatherland as yet to come -- that land to which such moments of joy and beauty as that with the whale harken. The saying goes something like, happy is the man for whom any land is whom but blessed is the man who eagerly awaits a certain fatherland as yet to come.
Matt Ryniker's sermon on Hebrews 11 (indeed the whole chapter in and of itself) sort of speaks to this sojourning pilgrimage through these earthly and mortal coils while looking onward in faith. It is about hope, I guess, that quality produced through suffering leading to perseverance leading to character leading to hope that doesn't disappoint because God has shed the Love of His Son into our Hearts through His Holy Spirit.
How do we not live as friends of this world? Well, it is living in or at least living for that far off fatherland to come, which we know of in part... but only in part. I think it is that part we know of which we as artists absolutely have to be making our subject matter. A tiny picture of that is writing about the joy coming from seeing a killer whale leaping out of the water, and about the reminder this is of where we have yet to see and explore.
I have to wonder if, on some level, that that is not the very role of the Christian Artist -- to harken (not necessarily in an evangelical way solely, since evangelism is for those not in relationship with Christ) to that far-off land, the onus of the artist so to speak.
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