A Call to Christian Artists
This is a transcript of a video from a few weeks ago, given for the Breath and the Clay’s 2021 event.
Thanks to Norm Grondin for the transcription.
We are at a crossing. Can you feel this? Can you touch the fear and dizziness of our moment? Can you sense the ground shifting beneath you; the sky spinning as a red tail swipes the stars from the heavens?
Everything is changing. Right now. There’s no going back anymore. All is getting shaky, but all is getting clamped down. All is being liberated while all is being tracked. All is permitted while the inquisitor looms behind you.
Two sides have risen. Insuperable opposites with no median to join them. The extremes are weighing in and all reality is caught between Charybdis and Scylla.
You see, they told us the world was just a cacophony of colliding particles. That love was just an injection of hormones and instincts. They told us the heavens were cold and dead, that the fairies were our ancestors’ delusions. They convinced us art was the framing of random facts and objects. They told us our stories and rituals were only power games and superstitions. They made us into desire machines, no closer to the gods than the beasts.
In fact, the gods do not exist. The angels, the jinns, the demons, the woodland sprites do not exist. They’re superstition. The world is a wound up clock running out, and in the end, you are a wound up clock running out into nothingness.
You can’t try to kill all the gods and then still expect to live, can you? They mocked, they derided, they dissected and now our world is being ripped apart.
Now, who could’ve seen this coming? Who could’ve thought that in defiling our stories—in demonizing our orders and reducing all that made us one, to the quantities that embody that unity—who would’ve thought that that would fragment us? That it would fragment our societies, our vision, that it would twist our virtues into innumerable empty desires, but this is where we stand, isn’t it?
We look around us, and we watch the story unravel. We watch our commonalities fall apart as people are at each other’s throats. First virtually, but more and more in the flesh. And so what can we do? We’re supposed to be artists. But it’s partly our fault that this happened. Maybe not you and I, but let’s say the artists. We are supposed to be the guardians of stories. We are supposed to be those who enchant the world. But for several hundred years now, it is us who have played the part in making everything arbitrary. In making everything random. In playing around beauty as if it was just a frivolous fantasy of individuals. And so it’s partly our fault. And it’s partly our fault as Christians as well.
In many ways we have assaulted the world of meaning. We have assaulted the enchanted world. As Christians, we, in the West, have been part of those who have removed the angels from the heavens, who have chased the sprites out of the forests. It’s us who did that. And now we live with the consequences of our actions.
But hope is not completely lost. We do stand here in a very dark moment. We do stand in a dark room with strange eerie sounds coming from that darkness. But all hope is not lost. We know of this story. We know of this story of a man who went into death and surprised everybody by entering there. We know this story of someone who went into death and death thought that it had won. Death thought that in bringing that man who was also God into its belly, that it had won.
But it grabbed life and a trick was played on it. And I believe that we can participate in that trick. Right now. All of us. All of us who are artists and who believe in that story, who live by that story or at least have the pretence of living by that story. There’s an opportunity for us right now, because in this strange darkness there are strange creepy crawly things that are coming up.
The world is being reenchanted. The atheists, the secularists; they were wrong. The world cannot exist without meaning. It is impossible. Every single capacity we have to even recognize something as having being is already a participation in meaning. Their war on meaning cannot be won. But as all of our stories have been shattered and broken apart, it has given room for all the dark things to come back up first. Those are the things we are starting to see appear on the horizon.
The old gods are coming back and not even the interesting old gods, but those darker gods, the ones that don’t have clear identities, those strange hybrid monsters that lived on the edge of the world, they’re the ones that are crawling back into the world first. And as artists we have an opportunity because we know the story, especially as Christian artists we know the story. We know the story of the world. We know what happens next.
There’s always a spark hidden in the darkness. There’s always a lit candle in that darkest place because without that lit candle things simply do not exist. The Word of God is hidden in creation, and it is our job to find it, and it is our job as artists to help the world see that flicker.
And there is an opportunity because a strange thing is happening in culture as Christianity is being evacuated from the public sphere, as our story’s being tossed aside, it is nonetheless filling the world at the same time. And this is a mystery that even a few decades ago people could not see; this strange mystery of death, this strange mystery of Christ entering in the tomb.
We have the opportunity of seeing it happen right now, because as the Christian story is being evacuated, we are noticing that it’s reappearing in all the strangest places. Because the bright, bright light of Christ is no longer so visible, all of a sudden these small sparkles are starting to appear hidden in the cavern walls, and we see the story of Christ in the strangest places.
We see some stupid superhero movie where the superhero falls to the ground and dies and then rises again. And we see another strange popular story coming up of someone sacrificing themselves for others, giving themselves for the weakest. We see twisted versions of people who are willing to do everything to bring up the weaker part of our world, to bolster it and to help it, and where do you think those lights come from?
And so we have an opportunity, but we also have a responsibility. Meaning is inescapable, and we have responsibility towards it. It is a weight that we have to carry as artists. It is a very daunting responsibility that we have right now as the world descends into darkness, that we are the ones who can give it a little bit of hope. We are the ones that can point those little sparks, those small lights, those twisted versions of the true light, that we are the ones who can point it back to the One True Light and origin of our world.
And so I just wanted to maybe give people a challenge, and I know all of you watching this are probably artists, so I want to give you that challenge to jump into that story, to not think that the story of Christ is just the story we believe in to be saved, but to truly jump into that story and realize that that story is also the story of everything. It is the story of creation, it is the story of how things exist.
The story of Christ is the fullest manifestation of every other story that have been told since the beginning of time. And so it is our responsibility to jump into that and to redistribute it to the world in ways that point towards that great story.
So I want to thank you for your attention today and I hope that all of us can grasp that challenge, that opportunity and also that responsibility.
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