Tag Archives: art

Get Courageous

When I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa, I read in the college newspaper an interview with the director of the Playwrights’ Workshop. The reporter asked for his advice to would-be playwrights. His response was so outrageous, I remember it after a bunch of years.

He advised, if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, get rid of them. If you’ve got a husband or wife, disown them. If you’ve got kids, drown them.

I suspect he was practicing dramatic hyperbole. Yet I, like Saint Paul, agree with the basic principle: lovers and dependents can get in the way of our work.

If you dedicate yourself to writing, at some point you’ll suspect people are conspiring to stop you. They will demean your efforts overtly or by lack of appreciation. Your family will fail to hide their resentment of the time you spend dreaming over the keyboard and the fact that you don’t make as much money as you could if you applied the same effort to pulling weeds for minimum wage.

And when you’re having a creative reverie, or even if they catch you transcribing directly from the spirit, they will interrupt.

We can’t blame them. When pursuing our art, we’re lost to the world. We’re remote, boring, often cranky. We’re loners who may elicit jealousy when our loved ones begin to doubt we really need them.

But most of us do need them, at least in times when we’re not creating. So, if I were asked for advice on this issue, I might suggest we try hard to be extra good to our loved ones whenever we break away from our art. And we might try putting a lock on our office door.

In practicing art, we risk alienating family and friends. That’s a fact. Artists aren’t recognized as the best husbands, wives or parents. But neither are soldiers, policemen or preachers, other occupations that require courage.

As Olga Savitsky taught me, King David was “a man after God’s own heart” because he was both a warrior and a poet. I imagine David composing his psalms with the same focus, zeal, and courage as he used attacking Goliath or the Edomites.

Read on in Writing and the Spirit

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I’m and artist and so are you

An Artist?

“We are God’s art, created in Christ Jesus to do works of beauty, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

“So God created mankind in his own image… male and female…” Genesis 1:27.

We are made in the image of the master artist, the creator of all creation, to create works of beauty.

Though we may not be called to quit our day jobs, run off to Tahiti and paint our impressions of the islanders, we are meant to view our work and our lives from an artist’s perspective.

Whether our goal is to provide announcements for a church newsletter, to make of our home a refuge from the storm outside, to save stories and lessons from our lives, to create happiness by loving well, or to compose a novel or film masterpiece, we are called to approach those projects with attitudes guided by the motive of creating works of beauty.

John Keats, in “Ode On a Grecian Urn”, wrote “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all you know on earth, and all you need to know.”

Real beauty, whether in the eye of the creator or the beholder, is an expression of love.

Christ insists, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works [works of beauty] and glorify your father who is in heaven.”

We are created in the image of God so that we can make art of and through our lives so that our art can draw people to God. And because God is love, we can draw people to God by helping them love better, which is best accomplished by loving them better.

In my novel The Good Know Nothing detective Tom Hickey and his sister Florence, who works for evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, are on a road trip when she asks:

“Tommy, do you want to know why I fell for God?”

“Sure.”

“It’s all your fault,” she said.

“How so?”

“See, when you really know love, when you find yourself being truly loved, you can’t help thanking God.”

A tiny sob issued out of her. Then she scooted closer and kissed her brother’s cheek. Tom sat speechless, wondering if his heart might explode.

Florence rode with her head on her brother’s shoulder. As distant headlights approached, she said, “The thing is, when you truly thank God, you sort of feel him smile. Then you fall for him. That’s all.”

 

The System

I read a masterful analysis of how corruption worked in Los Angeles during a certain period: business interests needed organized crime because crime bosses rented their buildings, used their construction companies, and provided goods and services they prized. Politicians needed business people whose support won them terms in office. The legal community, district attorneys, police commissioners, and judges  needed the politicians, who could hire and fire them at will. Cooperation benefitted them all.

I’ll describe the contemporary Christian community with a similar analysis.

Churches need book publishers and journalistic media to promote their ministry and to validate their messages. Christian publishers need churches as a platform through which authors can promote books. And Christian media supports itself by promoting the publishers and appealing to the generosity of believers nurtured in the faith by churches. Cooperation benefits them all.

The similarity of these systems doesn’t mean the Christian community is corrupt. My reason for pointing it out is to reveal that, though intentions may be pure and noble, the alliance of churches, publishers, and media effectively suppresses the freedom and vigor of Christian art and culture. Currently, the only voices or views that get widely proliferated are those in accord with and beneficial to churches. The System acts as a censor.

Though I love my home church and wish all churches well, I know that among their motives are some more practical than spiritual. A church needs to pay the bills, keep the doors open, and provide the parishioners with what they came looking for.

Churches do wonderful service. What they don’t do is shed light on many critical issues or make room for strikingly original, provocative, or simply alternative voices.

Perelandra College exists to do what churches don’t, to invigorate Christian culture and to free artists and thinkers restrained or discouraged by the system. This by no means limits us to serving only Christ followers. Rather we welcome everyone and are vigilant to ensure that beliefs of all sorts are honored and valued.

Still, the college was founded as a non-profit religious corporation, essentially a church whose target congregation is artists, whose primary mission is to empower believers with skills and courage, to help them become free and able to write and publish the truth as they see it.

Sylvia Curtis, a wise friend, sometime mentor, sometime antagonist and the basis for a character in several of my novels viewed humans as either people of good will or the others. Lately I also find myself dividing humanity and especially believers into two categories: answer people and question people. Though hardly anyone is all one or the other,  in most of us one of those categories dominates. Perelandra College is a church for question people, which artists must be.

Olga Savitsky is the college’s eternal poet laureate. She and I used to imagine the sort of church we wanted to create. Lots of poems and stories would be read or performed, and crazy drama like Christina Roseti’s “Goblin Market” and Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.  Over the front door would hang a big sign: “No B.S. allowed.”

The Scoop, our monthly e-magazine, now features a section called stuff you probably won’t hear in church, the point of which isn’t to criticize or expose but to offer a Christian perspective from outside the System. Please visit us. Subscribe and get the Scoop.

•• Time travel with detective Tom Hickey, at: kenkuhlken.net