Friday, 16 May 2008

Artfull Answer to Art Question

Here is nakedpastor spitting his dummy a little but provoking some great thought about 'art' and how it happens in our faith communities

"The other day I received an email from someone asking how I would recommend incorporating the arts into the church and what steps could be taken. While I believe the question is one motivated by genuine concern, the only intelligible answer that might satisfy is one that must be given within the programatic and institutional paradigm within which the question was asked. This is the problem.

The question exposes the paradigm and presses for an answer that conforms to that paradigm. We must realize that the question rarely reaches beyond itself. The question normally asserts its present paradigm and is usually a dogmatic statement seeking confirmation disguised as intellectual interest. The questioner may be trapped inside a paradigm that the mind hasn’t dreamed must perish.

So the normal way to answer the question would be something like this:
First of all, get permission from the leadership to start encouraging the arts. Then maybe start an art appreciation class. Then maybe an art instruction class. Ask the pastor if creative elements can be added to the church service. This will involve some “creative types”. Request that the leaders allow art to be displayed in the lobby. Set up an editorial committee that determines which art is appropriate for church. Etc., etc..

Just shoot me! Let me show you a better way. The church is generally a censorious community. In this environment art is sanitized, tame and conformist. It is still art, but functions as a reinforcement of the system. Expression is controlled and edited from start to finish. This kills art because it kills creativity because it kills freedom. Instead, allow people to be free without scrutiny. (I even hate the word “allow” because it assumes it needs to be given when it is already ours.)

In due time, after people begin to realize that they are loved and accepted unconditionally, the creative spirit will surface and artistic diversity will abound. This is the harder but more genuine way. It means taking care of the roots. If the root is unfettered freedom, then fruitful and artistic living happens. It is the diversity of human expression of personality that makes the artful life. Until this is nurtured art will be repressed."

Maybe one of the outworkings of getting on and being and doing spirituality as Mark is suggesting might be an outflowing of Art in a redemptive and transformative way? Maybe this is one of those ideas that others might pick up - or maybe we have this in us already?


mark said...

I think this guy's got it right. I'm sure creativity usually involves doing 9 things that don't work to find the one that does. When it works its fantastic. I would really value a non-censorious environment where people try their ideas out, and I'm sure we'll find loads more art in us than we could have imagined. In saying that, I'd also be interested in finding artistic stuff that is already out there and making use of it.

rache said...

'The questioner may be trapped inside a paradigm that the mind hasn’t dreamed must perish.'
I like that - I think that sometimes art can help you escape a paradigm or step out of your own perspective in a way you hadn't dreamed.
I went to an art exhibition in someone's house a couple of weeks ago. One installation was particularly striking - think taxidermy, think rabbits exploding out of a sofa - didn't say anything specific to me, nonetheless it kind of jolted me out of my own headspace and also made me wonder at the variety of people's creative imagination. Anyway I'd love to experience more art that challenges me with regard to life, faith etc

nakedpastor said...

what does it mean to spit your dummy?

DS said...

Hi nakedpastor - thanks for dropping in and for all your great nakedness that we enjoy being provoked and encouraged by.

Engage is based in Sheffield in Yorkshire. We Yorkshire folk have a pretty distinctive local dialect that seeps onto the blog sometimes. Lets try and sail that analogy back across the pond - 'spitting your dummy' is an affectionate Yorkshire phrase for something that would make an infant spit out their pacifier - perhaps a Yorkshire version of how you would describe a friend 'kicking against the goads'. Hope that makes sense -check wiki for more examples (

As is our custom in these parts when talking to any age sex, race, whatever may I be perhaps the first to say 'pop back soon love'