by Manuel Luz
“We create because we are made in the image of the Creator. We simply cannot help it.”
I was recently asked to read and review “Imagine That.” I was eager, and quickly moved through the book, soaking up the words. After reading, it only seem fitting that this review really be a letter to you. It’s the only context in which my response will make sense.
I’ve been an artist all my life, both in visual and musical expressions. Aside from directly leading worship, I’ve struggled to merge my faith with my art. As a Christian, I am compelled to make a difference in this world. To touch lives for the sake of the Gospel. To glorify God through my life. Because of this, I’ve felt obligated to either create hyper-preachy work, or to trade in my guitar pick for activities that have more well-defined place in the church. This struggle has always centered on the nagging question: What role do artists play in the Kingdom of God?
For far too long, these two core areas of my life have been at odds with one another. I saw my creativity as a cathartic hobby. A self-indulgent activity. So I indulged. Compelled by my own soul, I drew, painted, wrote songs, wrote poetry, designed logos… My life felt incomplete without some form of artistic expression, but I felt a small pang of guilt in seemingly fruitless creativity.
Within the context of that struggle, I picked up your book. Like oxygen for my gasping soul, you penned the answers. I found permission in your pages: “…we as artists can glorify God simply in the creation of our art. We are like the flowers of the field, each of which glorifies our God simply by being what He created it to be. God created us to be artists, and thus we give God glory by simply exercising the act of creativity.”
Every chapter held enlightenment for me. From acknowledging that we were created in the image of a very creative God, and should express the creativity within us. To explaining that Christian artists don’t have to create overtly Christian pieces, but should let our work flow from our honest soul-stirring perspective on life. To helping me understand that we must live in community – not only within the camaraderie of the creative community, but also bringing our quirkiness, neediness, and controversy into the Church. To reminding me that, without discipline, an artist won’t grow and mature in her craft or faith. To validating that inner urge – that inner “call” – to create and communicate a worthy message for the sake of my soul and the sake of others’.
Manuel, thank you for committing careful time to the words of this book. You raised the bar for us. You called us to a high moral standard, and to a high creative standard. You’ve pulled us out of the safe walls of our church, into the more competitive and critical culture around us. You’ve challenged us to brave this world for the sake of our message. You’ve encouraged us to take the power of our art, and use it to inspire and educate others.
As I read your description of the Christian artist, I was compelled to want examples. Names of artists within various crafts who were actively living out what you’ve laid out in the pages of “Imagine That.” I would love to look up their work, peer into their “ministry,” and see how they have merged their faith, their culture, and their art. Now that I know it’s possible, I want to find others that are doing this. I’m determined to keep my eyes open for the Christian creatives, whose lives I can watch in order to see how this all works out together.
Thank you for making this freedom a reality for me. Thank you for giving a clear and concise “theology” of Christian artistry. I’m breathing easy now.
Kindest regards and gratitude,