The Art Of Reconciliation
A healthy worldview leaves room to be challenged, to be expanded and even to be proven wrong. It postures itself to listen and learn from those with whom we disagree. Divisive judgments, on the other hand, constitute an unhealthy worldview. They take root in us when we harden into the belief that our personal views are the final word or ultimate truth.
When we believe we have seen it all, understand it all and have the right perspective about it all is when we begin the process of decay. It is easy to profile those who are unlike us and exchange their true and living humanity for a caricature of our own imagining. This presumptive and anti-creative judgment hurts ourselves as much as it does the other. It stifles our ability to learn and grow and therefore stifles our ability to create.
Those who are quick to judge are also those who are likely to experience creative block. Curiosity and judgment do not easily co-exist. Judgment is a barricade whereas curiosity is an invitation. Presumptive judgment blocks our creative channels with a cold and harsh absolutism.
The cure for this is humility. When we have humility, when we choose to be quick to listen and slow to speak, we expand our own borders and often find we drew the boundaries too narrow out of fear instead of love. At the very least, listening reaffirms our convictions.
Art is always on the other side of our engagement with the unfamiliar. The unfamiliar draws us, intrigues us or woos us by curiosity into a greater expanse of experience. But when we refuse to engage those who are different than us, we refuse the art and the personal growth that comes from contrast.
Many years ago, the question arose in my heart which I felt to be the voice of God. The voice said, "Stephen. Are you willing to be misunderstood to go where I am leading you?" My answer was a quick and naive yes. But the implications of this answer were much farther reaching than a quick or zealous answer could have understood.
I've always walked the lines between subcultures and factions that don't normally coalesce. I've often been too worshipful for the marketplace and too secular for the sacred. But this isn't to say I am not rooted in my own convictions or that I am double minded about what I believe. No. I know who I am. I know what I believe and I make no apologies about it. But I am not so staunch that I don't look for value or truth in differing perspectives. In fact, more often than not, it has been my atheistic or doubtful companions who have made me a better Christian. And true, we must be mature and firmly rooted in our convictions in order to engage those who differ in belief from us. But if we never engage them at all, we may never discover how strong or in some cases how flimsy our faith really is.
I believe, especially for artists of faith working and living in the times we live in, we must deconstruct the denominational and humanistic tradition of suspicion toward the other. Forget having Muslim or atheist friends for a moment. Many Christians still struggle toward other believers. Fortunately, worship is breaking down this man-made barrier. But this religious inheritance of fear and suspicion toward those who are unlike us in our beliefs or our interpretations of scripture has stifled the Church more than it has protected her from heresy.
We don't have a scriptural precedence for this behavior. In fact, I see just the opposite. Jesus's example is that he came to us when we were still enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10). He sought common ground with us where there was arguably little in common to find. The interesting part is, he didn't come only to change us so much as he came to empower us to change. That may sound like subtle or circus semantics but the distinction is important. He didn't only interact with us to prove his rightness or our wrongness. The only people Jesus treated with rebuke, contempt or tough love were those who presumed they were already like God or those who had become self righteous in their religion and therefore isolated themselves from the common people. Those who were different or marginalized, those who existed on the fringe or didn't understand God's kingdom, he treated with kindness, grace and empathy. Therefore Jesus led the way by example of his ministry of reconciliation.
As artists of faith, we are stewards of this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
Throughout the ages, the Church has fallen prey to a territorialism which has separated us from those whom we are likely to have more in common with than not. Creativity, however, which is the artist's tool, intersects all facets of society and wields the power to bring together. This power of creativity is the Church's great inheritance. She is only now beginning to awaken and recognize this God given gift within her.
Whether family, education, religion, arts & entertainment, economics, government or science, creativity pushes these fields forward and draws them together, which is also Jesus' own mission as mentioned in Colossians 1:20. Creativity is innately human and also reflective of the divine nature. Again, creativity is positioned at the intersection. It transcends areas of disagreement to form its own common unity or community. Art as the ministry of reconciliation draws connections or reveals connections where we have lost or forgotten they existed.
In short, it is damaging to stay inside our own little safety zones or subcultures, learning and listening only to those who agree with us. This in part is why I have endeavored to invite participants to The Breath & the Clay and strive to interview interesting people on Makers & Mystics who come from various viewpoints or backgrounds, different than my own. I believe the cross-pollination is good. As I said earlier, at the very least it will reaffirm our own convictions.
As artists of faith, we are the architects of hope for our culture. We are the ministers of reconciliation. As creatives, we are those who are called to traverse past the conventions and safety zones for the sake of pioneering a new and living and expanded experience of God's presence in the world.
***In my upcoming blog posts I will unpack more specific areas where I feel called to be a minister of reconciliation. Primarily, I am referring to the fields of spiritual encounter, philosophy and theology, and environmental stewardship.