f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right...

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, April 02, 2004

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right...

(Anybody else think that song always sounds like Dylan?)

Well, plans change and it looks like I’ll be sticking with faith*in*fiction for a little while longer at least. ;-)

And since my mind has changed about leaving, I’ll change my mind about our next series too. We won’t be taking a tour of the CBA industry next week. Instead, we’ll devote some more time to this notion of the rift between conservative Christians who loathe the thought of controversial or challenging art and us raving liberal Christians who apparently want drinking, swearing, and whoring by the truckload. There’s a nice exchange of thoughts in the “Comments” from two days ago and hopefully we’ll keep the conversation going. Remember I’m not any kind of final voice or arbiter of opinion. I just have the password to this journal and get to post my thoughts out front. That’s why I think adding a discussion board might be a good thing. It’ll allow the rest of you a chance to share your thoughts without breaking them into tiny little chunks.

Today I’d like to mention something that bears repeating every once in a while—there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s an Ecclesiastical point made time and again by Solomon as he points out the folly of life outside God, but it’s worth remembering. This argument is ancient—only our addition to the conversation is new. It’s worth it then to see what others, usually smarter than us (or at least me) have said on the topic .

This brings me to Gregory Wolfe’s essay “The Christian Writer in a Fragmented Culture.” Wolfe is the editor of Image: a Journal of the Arts and Religion, perhaps the premier literary journal in the country examining the intersection of art and faith. (Consider a subscription for a birthday or something. We need to support these endeavors.) His essay, first published in Image recently celebrated its 15th anniversary but this essay, which can be seen as almost a mission statement for the journal, was published in 1994 or 1995. You can find it collected in The Best American Essays 1995 or The New Religious Humanists which Wolfe himself edited. (It's always nice to be editor of something; you can always put your own work in without anybody being able to say anything.)

Wolfe’s essay, worth tracking down, is at once exciting, familiar, and in some ways, distressing. It’s exciting because there’s a real passion to the words, and insight. This is an eloquent call to discovering the power Christian writing has to bridge both the sacred and the secular as well as fundamentalist and liberal factions within the church. It’s familiar because if you read that last sentence you’ll see it’s discussing the same issue on which we’re about to spend a week. And it’s distressing because obviously not much progress has been made in a decade. This is one of the key men in the world of the Christian arts and I’m not sure how much his voice has been heard. How are we to fare then? Is this a fight that can’t be won?

The fight may not be won, but I still think we’re called to participate. And I think we’re called to make sure it’s not a fight at all, but an open dialogue and discussion. Wolfe’s voice has been heard (I’m talking about him, aren’t I?) and I do think there’s been movement between the sides. Our call, according to Wolfe (who uses Richard Niebuhr’s terminology) is to:
“…get away from the ‘Christ against culture’ and ‘Christ in culture’ perspectives, and to affirm a ‘transformationist’ vision. Transformation is what faith and imagination have in common: they take the stuff of ordinary life and place it in the light of the ultimate questions of sin and redemption.”
How that will look and what it will sound like are the hard questions ahead. We can’t choose to simply ignore the conversation, though. So let’s all put our thinking caps on over the weekends and begin to has this thing through starting Monday.