Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Love-Hate Relationship of Art and Faith

If you've followed me on this blog or on Twitter for a while, you know that I'm a writer - an artist. You also know that I'm a Christian - a person of faith. I don't consider those two pieces of me to be in diametrical opposition, though sometimes it seems I'm in the minority for thinking that way.

For many people, there seems to be a war between art and faith, particularly art and Christianity. It's an odd struggle, given that God is nothing if not the most creative artist ever seen. Don't believe me? Take a walk in a garden and study the flowers and their leaves. The effect is even better if you choose a botanical garden, because you have more samples to examine.

It'll strike you at some point to wonder: "Why are these leaves fuzzy? Those leaves aren't. But these are. And why is this color on this type of flower, but not on that one?" The more you focus on the variety of the flowers and the leaves, the more you'll appreciate just how wildly talented an artist God is. And how extravagant. He went over the top in designing the world; there's no denying it.

Maybe you'll follow up by wondering, "If there's so much variety in creation, why not have plenty of variety in the arts?" The answer is, of course there should be variety! It's the spice of life, and God loves a spicy meal, as far as I can see.

Art, and specifically the art of writing, is meant to entertain and communicate. There are as many ways to do that as there are people in the world. Not everyone is going to follow the same route. And if there are those of us who choose to bring our faith to the artistic table in a way that doesn't fit the narrow Christian bookshelves, then so be it.

Perhaps it is fear or denial that makes it hard to express faith in an art form that can trust the reader to make up his or her own mind. Perhaps it is hard to reconcile the black and white absolutes of faith with the areas in that faith, or in our world, that are grey. It's an uncomfortable place, to be sure. But sometimes discomfort is necessary to spur change and action.

Art has the great ability to make you see something in a new light, or in a deeper way than you previously have. Sometimes you have to take a risk and let your beliefs be challenged. If they are based on truth with a capital T, they'll withstand the testing. If they don't, maybe you're not as rooted in that belief as you thought you were. That's a valuable lesson too, though an uncomfortable one.

I wonder how many of us struggle with finding ways to express our art and our faith in honest ways, without fear of people who may judge either our art or our faith and declare it lacking. I wrestle with it every day. But I won't give up the fight to deepen my Christianity or develop my writing. The tension between art and faith keeps me reaching forward for more out of life. That's a good thing.

How about you? Do you ever feel a tension in balancing your art with your beliefs? Is there a tension between what you do with your art and what others consider "proper" spiritually? How do you approach the divide and bridge it? I'd love to know what you think.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. As an ex-Christian, I used to struggle with this conundrum of balancing art with my belief system. Though I am not judgmental of others' belief systems, it is tough to avoid the criticism from either side of the spectrum.

    Those who are classified as "unbelievers" wrestle with appealing to a wider audience, especially in the U.S who has a higher percentage of Christians. Those who are believers may not want to be solely classified beneath the genre "Christian fiction."

    Be true to yourself and your beliefs, whatever they may be. Your words will only resonate if they are genuine.

    Thought-provoking questions, Chipper. :)

  2. Thanks, M.E. I agree... When we speak out of the truth that is in us, it'll resonate. As for me and my writing, I don't want to be classified as "Christian fiction" mainly because there are expectations of what that is, and I don't meet them. Such is life. :)


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