Art and Faith

A book that I have enjoyed reading lately is Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. It contains a series of reflections on the relationship between art and faith. I have enjoyed the book so much because it says many of the things I have wished to say and says them much better than I could ever say them. L’Engle is a writer, so much of the book contains thoughts on writings, but its ideas are applicable to any art a Christian may be involved in. Here are a few quotes.

“If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.”

“One of my professors, Dr. Caroline Gordon, a deeply Christian woman, told our class, ‘We do not judge great art. It judges us.’”

“I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing,”

“Basically there can be no categories such as “religious” art and “secular” art, because all true art is incarnational and therefore “religious.”

“A sad fact which nevertheless needs to be faced is that a deeply committed Christian who wants to write stories or paint pictures or compose music to the glory of God simply may not have been given the talent, the gift, which a non–Christian, or even an atheist, may have in abundance. God is no respecter of persons, and this is something we are reluctant to face. We would like God’s ways to be like our ways, his judgments to be like our judgments. It is hard for us to understand that he lavishly gives enormous talents to people we would consider unworthy, that he chooses his artists with as calm a disregard of surface moral qualifications as he chooses his saints.”

“Not long ago a college senior asked if she could talk to me about being a Christian writer. If she wanted to write Christian fiction, how was she to go about it? I told her that if she is truly and deeply a Christian, what she writes is going to be Christian, whether she mentions Jesus or not. And if she is not, in the most profound sense, Christian, then what she writes is not going to be Christian, no matter how many times she invokes the name of the Lord.”

“Often we forget that he has a special gift for each one of us, because we tend to weigh and measure such gifts with the coin of the world’s market place. The widow’s mite was worth more than all the rich men’s gold because it represented the focus of her life. Her poverty was rich because all she had belonged to the living Lord. Some unheard-of Elizabethan woman who led a life of selfless love may well be brought before the throne of God ahead of Shakespeare, for such a person may be a greater force for good than someone on whom God’s blessings seem to have been dropped more generously. As Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard says, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

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