On Saturday I went to a forum at our church for people in creative industries--musicians, architects, artists, writers, graphic designers, etc. Wow. Not only was it interesting, but I'm impressed with their resolve to help people figure out how their vocation and their faith work together.
It was put together by a comedy writer and an artist, both members of the larger church group we're in (called "Co-mission churches"), both people who decided that it was worth the effort to get up at an early hour on a Saturday morning, buy some croissants and fruit to share and plan a couple of talks and group discussions to get the church talking about what it means to pursue a "creative" vocation as it corresponds with our faith. Because it's no secret that for the last few hundred years and especially within the last fifty, evangelicals have spewed dragon fire on the idea of art in church, especially visual art, reviling it like a form of idolatry and excessive luxury. Modernism was all about the Word so while we did have literature and rhetoric, visual art wasn't considered worth our time or money like it was in the early ages of the Christian church. (Even then if it was included, it had to fit a certain "church" mode and follow specific "church" guidelines. If you couldn't do stained glass, your art would not be included in the canon of church beauty. If you didn't have magnificent wood working skills to carve an altar or pew out of the surrounding oak trees, then you were doomed to whittle away your time to secular causes. Because if it wasn't displayed in church, it wasn't worthy art.)
While I think that some churches today, especially the emerging churches, are doing a better job of encouraging drama and visual arts, people who desire to make a vocation out of their creativity still often feel the need to justify their choice. Why? Because we're not doctors or fireman, lawyers or policeman, professionals who make the survival of humankind possible. We're luxury. We're excessive. We're a vanity.
As our speaker pointed out, it's tempting to believe this lie because we have our priorities wrong. Somehow the evangelical church has gotten the idea into our heads that our main priority as Christians is to introduce people to the saving love of Christ. Evangelize evangelize evangelize. Well, surprisingly, it's not. Of course it's God's will that all of humanity will come to know him, but God put us on this earth for a greater purpose: to give him glory. To worship him as he made us to worship him: as humans. The act of creation is human, and there is no other reason we should have to give.
God made the world unnecessarily beautiful. Look at the thousands of birds in the world. Visit the Canadian Rockies. Get married and experience passionate sex the way God designed it to be.
Not only is our world beautiful, but so is His Word. The first words that Adam spoke after he saw his wife for the first time was not a theological sermon but a love poem. A simple love poem. The Bible is filled with poetry and metaphors and stories and parables and powerful symbols that point to what? God's unnecessarily beautiful love for us--the kind that never dies, no matter how often we hurt him.
I find it interesting that the first mention of a character in the Bible who is "filled with the Spirit of God" is an artist:
"The Lord said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft."