here are times when it can be tough being someone who loves Christianity and art. Is creative spirituality necessarily at loggerheads with organised religion, as sometimes seems to be the suggestion? At times some artists seem to want to revel in that presumed divide as if free-thinking, unaffiliated spirituality is the superior breed. At other times religious people criticise an artist’s honest expression of his or her experience and feelings in ways which would seem to leave the love that should be at the heart of religion right out of the picture. (Pun intended!)
Yet much of the greatest art has been inspired by a love of God in the individual artist, or in a community.
So I was grateful to have a friend alert me to the following video that discusses the art/worship divide, in its focus on a work of art that comes from that place of religious worship, but is recognised as high quality contemporary art. As a current exhibit invite made clear, New York artist Makoto Fujimura’s beautiful version of The Four Holy Gospels has been produced for the forthcoming 400th anniversary commemoration of the King James Version of the Bible.
As a young man who loved creativity and was increasingly feeling the presence of God in my experience, I was grateful to find a faith – Christian Science – in which the ideal was to respect individual conscience in art and religion, and to see the two ultimately thriving in unison. In a book called The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (p. 270), the Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “I would no more quarrel with a man because of his religion than I would because of his art. The divine Principle of Christian Science will ultimately be seen to control both religion and art in unity and harmony.”
When art and religion do seem to be quarrelling (in a public forum or in the privacy of our own thoughts!) one answer is not to end the quarrelling, but to spiritualise it! In a message she gave to her fledgling church in 1900, Mrs Eddy said “When a man begins to quarrel with himself he stops quarrelling with others.”
It would be wonderful to see artists all over the world commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible with individual expressions of the spirituality that it has inspired in them and to have religious folks value the diversity of ways in which that might be expressed.
Among that diversity of ways, are those whose honest quarrels with themselves have headed them down the road of yielding evermore to the purely spiritual art of Christian healing. To them, Mary Baker Eddy also wrote words that will be ringing in their ears in this 400th anniversary year! She said “The truest art of Christian Science is to be a Christian Scientist; and it demands more than a Raphael to delineate this art.”
Perhaps the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible will be commemorated by a more public recognition of the marvellous evidences still appearing today that a spiritual understanding of the Scriptures heals…as the Bible records it did when Jesus and his early disciples were so actively proving that God’s creative love is not just an abstract concept, but the most powerfully inspirational idea available to humankind for accomplishing practical good.