One of the struggles of the artist is to hold together the awe inspiring and the transcendent elements of life, those moments which remind us of God’s glory, with the painful and broken elements of life. Christians tend to do okay at the first part, Christian bookstores are filled with prints of glorious mountain ranges, we love the transcendent apex of the worship song. But we tend to struggle with the broken elements of life, with integrating suffering, lament and loss into our creativity. On the Cross, God intervenes in history with such staggering alacrity and originality we can only marvel at his creativity. In one moment, God’s glory is revealed, Jesus takes sin upon his shoulders and defeats death and evil, yet at the same time, we are confronted with the image of a dying God, a man whose painful screams speak of his isolation from God. The crucifixion is one of those rare moments, where the transcendent and the immanent, the glorious and the earthly, the human and the divine are held together. It is the ultimate template for Christian creatives. Hold those extremes together and you will produce work that no longer is mimicry but which is truly creative.
I was at a Christian conference recently where the speaker urged us (in light of the resurrection) to paint in the colours of hope, bringing the light and joy of the promised new creation into our dark and brutal world.
Now I’m all for hope. And never run out of stuff to say about the resurrection — so massive are its implications not just for art but also for how we engage with the material and ‘secular’ in general!
But what Sayers says is worth pondering. Because Christian hope, grounded in the Crucified who’s now risen, must not to hide from the nastiness and brokenness in our experience of life.
In fact, Christian hope should enable us to look reality square in the eye. Shouldn’t it?