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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Beauty

How I Know God Loves Art

My wife and I were walking to our community garden this morning when I was struck by how amazing all of the new flowers are. They have popped up over the past two weeks, bathing our neighbourhood in colour. I turned to my wife and said, “This is how I know God loves art: why else would the world be full of flowers and sunsets?”

Beautifultrees

You see, there are many, many beautiful things in this world that seem to have no real use other than to make life better. Colour is one of these things. We could be just fine without colour (dogs seem to do just fine without it), and it doesn’t at all seem necessary in and of itself. I can imagine a far simpler universe that had no colour. Yet, we do find colour, and we are often blessed by its inclusion in our lives.

For me, artists prove that God is alive and well. We do not strictly create things that are necessary for the survival of ourselves or our species, but no one I know would like to live in a world without art. Even those who don’t think art is very important probably wear clothes designed by an artist, listen to music created by an artist, and live in a building designed by an artist. A life without art would be like living in prison, and we tend to save that fate for those people we really, really don’t like.

So, if no one needs art to survive, but we all seem to need art to really live, I must ask the question: why? Why are we so drawn to art? I argue that it’s because God is an artist who designed us for more than mere survival. We are designed to feel, and to emote and to worship. And art allows us to do all of these things.

I’ve heard it quoted that art (or music, I can’t remember) is feeling made manifest. It allows us to put our feelings down for others to experience. In experiencing art, we can join in with the feelings of others, drawing us together as a people who are on the same journey: the journey to find meaning and purpose.

Art can also draw out our emotions, confront us with our fears, our joys, and our angers. Each time we engage a piece of art, whether it is music or a painting or a theatre show, we are given the opportunity to explore our emotional range, giving sustenance to that which makes us human.

In this place of emotion and feeling, when we are taken away from our own little world into something bigger, something beyond ourself, we are able to turn from ourselves to God. When we embrace His joy, His love, or His grace, we enter into an act of worship. When we walk with others through their trials, even through the medium of art, we are worshipping. When we let the world and all of its problems fade and focus on the divine eternity of heaven, we worship Him who created all of these things.

Many throughout the millennia have tried to define what the Book of Genesis meant when God tells us that humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. The imago dei has been argued to be our ability to reason, or our ability to love, or our ability to live in community. I don’t think these answers are all wrong, but I would put forward one other: our ability to create. Up to this point in the story, all that God has done is create the universe (all…) and judge it to be good. He then creates humankind, a being that is to be like Him in some way. Perhaps it is this very creative nature that makes us the bearers of God’s image.

As the summer continues to move forward, I am excited to revel in the beauty of God’s creation. I love the serene beauty of winter as well, but as a Canadian, we see far too much snow and far too little green, so I will enjoy this temporal beauty as long as it lasts. Like everything else of this world, our art will fade and be destroyed, but the moments we experience beauty and art can, if we let them, show us a glimpse of a perfectly beautiful, perfectly artistic God.

Blessings

A Modest Proposal

A couple of months ago, my wife and I stopped at a new restaurant downtown for lunch on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The menu looked appetizing and the servers seemed professional, so we sat down and took in our surroundings. The place had a very industrial look, with a lot of concrete, steel, and untreated wood. The browns and grays were offset by several splashes of candy apple red throughout, such as the lighting electrical cords and the accessories of the servers. Everything was fun, and the afternoon seemed to be on an excellent track. Until we noticed the art.

There were only two pieces of art in the entire place, as far as we can remember. Both were six-foot photographs of models doing chores in their underwear. We were struck because these photos had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the decor. We shook our heads, enjoyed our lunch, and left, probably never to return.

I tell this story because it seems that, in spite of the feminist movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is still alright for women to be used as “eye candy.” It is perfectly acceptable to display women as nothing more than the object of a male fantasy: someone who is nearly naked and looking after the house. Further, it is alright to portray these scantily clad women not only in men’s washrooms or gentlemen clubs, but in a downtown pub.

Now, I understand that my bias leans me away from gratuitous displays of skin in public, but I’ve come to think that there is very little left of the road to “physical freedom” that our society has yet to explore. We are bombarded by Victoria’s Secret models as we scour the mall for the few remaining cute skirts with hems that sit at or below the knee. Nudity has become the norm with well-loved television series. It seems nearly impossible to turn on one’s browser without being greeted by someone wearing far less than one might appreciate.

As I am about to become a father in a few weeks, I sometimes fear for my future children. My sons will have to learn early that the media lies: women are not on this planet solely for their pleasure. They are fellow human beings with lives that are full of joy and pain and love. They have body issues and confidence issues and interpersonal issues. They have dreams, hopes, and plans. And perhaps one day, God will bring one of these beautiful creations into their lives to share a future with.

As for my girls, my wife and I must help them traverse this world that gives them two options as they grow up: be sexy, or be invisible. I have to fight the billboards and the commercials to tell my daughters that their worth is not found in their ability to adhere to a physical standard that has been placed upon them by the faceless “media.”  I have to convince them that getting attention for showing skin is not the same thing as love and acceptance. I have to show them that their true power as women comes from their love of God, not their ability to turn heads.

It is for these reasons that I want to call us to think about modesty.

I don’t mean we need to become Amish or return to 1930’s bathing suits, but perhaps we can think about the messages we send to the upcoming generations by what we wear and how we portray sexuality in public. As a start, just think about the image you are sending out and why you do so. Is it to be sexy? Powerful? Desirable? Think about it.

In the midst of this concern for the future, I do hold on to a little hope. Western history has shown that the pendulum swings back and forth between conservative and liberal expressions of art, politics, and social movement. As skirts have reached a point where they can go no shorter before being reclassified as belts, I hope that they begin to lengthen, even if just in the name of fashion. As people become numb to the reckless nudity that we are faced with, perhaps a touch of modesty can become flirty again. The hint of skin may become more enticing than getting the whole show up front. A guy can hope…

Much of this article has focused on modesty for women, for which I apologize. Men are not innocent of a lack of modesty (which the Abercrombie bags at my local mall can attest to), but I’ve found the media focuses a lot more on nearly naked women to sell everything. My aim is not to come down on women and their dress, but to start a conversation on the direction our world is headed. I really don’t want to raise children in a society that worships at the altar of sexuality, but I can’t change things on my own.

I hope I’ve given you all something to think about.

Blessings

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