IRJ: I think the problem is what we hold
up as exemplary, what we think of as good
Christian art. When we think of Christian
art, do we think of Thomas Kinkade and
sickly sweet landscapes, and this version
of the world we know is false? Or do we
hold up someone like Rembrandt and
the fantastic historical figures that clearly
were believers? Do we hold up people who
are dishonest in their art or not very skilled
at what they do? In our time we have extraordinary examples of great Christian art.
We just had Marilynne Robinson here, the
novelist and Orange Prize winner who
wrote Gilead. It’s just shot through with an
interest in theology, but also with a sense
of the mystery, the majesty, the glory of
life. I think she’s brilliant.
I would want to say to people skeptical
of Christian art, let’s look and see what’s
out there and hold up what’s really good.
That’s something to aspire to. If we want
to be writers, let’s look at what Robinson
does. She writes essays too. She writes
beautifully about life. I think for any writer
to read that, you want to say, “Yes, this is
great art,” but it’s also clearly coming from
somebody who is a committed Christian.
I have a friend in the U.K., Michael
Symmons Roberts. He is a top poet. His
various collections have won national priz-
es. His latest, Drysalter, is a kind of play
on the Psalter. It is 150 poems and they
have this psalmlike quality and clearly en-
gage in issues of faith and life. They have
won national prizes because they touch
the reality of life and engage with people
who are not Christians, but leave them
thinking there is something more. There
is transcendence. There is more than we
can describe in material terms. His work
again just witnesses to the fact that there
are creative people around doing excellent
stuff that we ought to hold up [not just] as
great art, but as great expressions of faith.
f T: How can the local church encourage
the artists in our midst, and let them know
they are valued?
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