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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Redemption: Art in Christ and Christ in Art

Sketchers made my running shoes.  Crafted from the "minimalist" philosophy of running, they are designed to keep my foot stable and supported while being light enough to let me run freely.  And I love to run.  They fit me perfectly. They also have the added benefit of looking really cool. Which is why it's crazy how I treat those shoes.  I toss them into the car and snatch them from the floor and cram my feet into them when I'm ready to go.  Actually, those shoes are taken for granted even when I'm running, while they are protecting my feet from pavement, trail, or treadmill.  I don't realize how much I depend on them, because I truly don't want to run with another pair.  My sketchers are what facilitate my habit.  

Like my running shoes, I have a word that I tend to use and toss around without really thinking.  It's an important word.  One I wouldn't want to write without, but that I tend to take for granted, expecting my audience to grasp it without ever explaining it.  It fits.  It even sounds cool.  And I know it motivates my writing and facilitates my little writing habit.  
Though I overuse it, I call myself back to the original meaning in hopes of clarifying my goals for this blog and for all of my writing.  

The word is "redemption." 
It means "to buy back." 

There are two sides to Redemption stories: The Redeemer and the Redeemed.  
One who buys and one who is bought.  
Like in my favorite story of all where the stakes are very high, because the princely Redeemer goes to such great lengths and excessive personal costs to buy back an unworthy slave who hates him for no reason at all.  He buys back the slave with His own blood. Then, instead of returning the slave to work, He makes her his own and gives her the inheritance rights of a son, clothing her in His beauty and honoring her with His love. All of that is ancient world terminology for the cross of Christ and the glory of the gospel.  A love that is foreign to us.  A love that we crave beyond our understanding.

What does it have to do with the arts?
I often claim (a bit pretentiously, I admit) that I'm "redeeming" a bit of literature or a tv show or a song or some other such scrap of popular culture.  This is, by far, one of my favorite activities and one that is responsible for unreasonably late nights and writing binges during which I occupy a solitary spot and consume vast amounts of green tea.  But what does it mean? 

The realm of art is God's.  He is the originator of art and a great lover of art.  He is also the ultimate collector of it.  
Every realm of the creative world displays His glory.  And every realm of it is now trapped in a sinful world.  
Theater.  Journalism. Fiction. Painting. Music. Woodworking.  
All of it matters, and all of it reflects in some way, the God of Heaven.  
When I say I am redeeming a bit of literature, I mean that I'm "buying it back."  I'm attempting to unravel the meaning so that it can be traced back to the majesty of Jesus where it truly belongs.Whether the human creator realizes it or not, his or her work is often redemptive in itself because we bear, unwittingly, the Image of God and cannot help but reveal Him in our work. 
Therefore, rather than adding meaning where the author didn't intend to put it, I am simply pointing out where it shows up with or without the original intention of the artist.  It has more to do with the reality of the artist's humanity than with the agenda he or she is attempting to communicate.
I'm pulling back the curtain that inevitably covers those aspects that more clearly reflect the beauty, goodness, and truth that originate in Him and belong, still, to Him.  
Grace.  Love.  Joy.  Worth.  
By attributing these aspects to their rightful owner, I honor the art and the artist because I'm also pointing out their dignity in the gospel, regardless of their personal relationship to it. Additionally, I'm able to affirm those good things that humanity agrees upon, whether or not we recognize equally the Source.  Writing with this in mind is to see Him in everything and everything in Him, giving me endless material and endless reason for praise, which is why He gave us the arts in the first place. 

So-called secular art has imagined itself an orphan for far too long.  Let it find the Father.  


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