Life and Art: An Artist Creates for an Audience of One

>All art–whether written, spoken, painted, acted–is borne of a desire to create. To make something out of, essentially, nothing. Why do we creative types do this? What is our motivation?

We do it for ourselves. We do it because we have to. We create for an audience of one. (In this way, how more like God can we be? Who also created for an audience of one: Himself).

Don’t get me wrong: sharing our work is an eventual part of the process, but it can’t be the primary motivation. The artist must work for the art’s sake–work for the work’s sake–first.

It must be about challenging oneself to make the absolute best art one possibly can, else where is the “artistic integrity?”

Take, for instance, this blog: do I write for you, or for me? I write for me–because I have to. I’m compelled to exercise that part of my brain. I’m creating my art on my terms in a way that makes sense to me. I’m creating for an audience of one.

It’s not about comments, or money, but rather about love. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with being paid for our work, but if that’s the primary motivation, we’re monkeys. Love the work–the rest will take care of itself.

Trust me on this.

How about you? Who do you create for?

According to CS Lewis, Osama bin Laden Could Be In Heaven?

>Screenshot of Osama bin Laden Blog Postphoto © 2011 longislandwins | more info (via: Wylio)

Before you flame me, please understand that the question in this post’s title is an honest one, sincerely asked. And I ask because, as a self-professed Christian inclusivist, I have to.

My question is primarily motivated by a careful reading of two books:

C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, and Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town.

(If you’ve read either of these books, then the passages I’m going to cite should be familiar to you; if not, at the very least you’ll gain some context for my question).

In the penultimate chapter of Last Battle, “Further Up and Further in, Lewis relays a dialogue that takes place between Emeth [interestingly, the Hebrew word for truth], a Tarkaan, and servant of Tash, and Aslan, the Lion, and Son of the Emperor Oversea:

[Emeth speaking] “But the Glorious One [Aslan] bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine, but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”

As you may, or may not, know, in Lewis’ Narnian Chronicles, Aslan is the allegorical stand-in for Jesus Christ. Thus in this scene, we have “Jesus” telling Emeth that his service to another god was in fact service to Him. The qualifying factor? As presented in the next paragraph: the sincerity of Emeth’s service.

Apparently, Emeth came from a country–Tarkaan–where Aslan was either unheard of, or presented as something other than he was. In any case, according to Aslan, what Emeth thought he was seeking in Tash, he was–unbeknownst to him–actually seeking in Aslan.

What if we substitute the names “Osama” and “Allah” for “Emeth” and “Tash” in the dialogue recounted above, respectively? Surely that is not a stretch of Lewis’ logic, right?

Now I recognize that Lewis’ work is fiction, and is not meant to be read as theology. But certainly it has theological implications?

I read somewhere that Rachel Held Evans considers this passage a critical one in informing her understanding of the eternal fate of those who die without ever hearing the Gospel. So I would say the theological import is not lost on her.

In chapter seven of her excellent book, Evolving In Monkey Town, Mrs. Evans relates the sad tale of Zarmina, a woman in Afghanistan accused of murdering her husband. Zarmina was apparently accused, arrested, made to confess, imprisoned for three years, and then summarily executed by the Taliban before a crowd of 30,000.

Mrs. Evans is appalled (as I am as well) at the unfairness of it: that a woman so treated, who lived by the light she was given (Islam), should not only be executed in this life, but doomed to Hell for all eternity by a loving God–and all because she didn’t have the good fortune to be born in a country where she would have an opportunity to hear the Gospel? It is, to Mrs. Evans, monumentally unfair.

In her own words, Mrs. Evans says, “We just assume that little kids and mentally disabled people go to heaven,” I said. “The Bible doesn’t come right out and say that. So why can’t we believe that people without the gospel go to heaven? What’s the difference? Why won’t anyone give me a straight answer on this?”

Indeed, where is the justice in it? Unless, like Emeth, Zarmina, in her simple, devout, unknowing sincerity, truly sought Christ as she seemingly sought Allah? God alone knows.

Like Zarmina, I think a case can be made that Osama bin Laden was likewise sincere–very, very sincere–in his beliefs. His interpretations of the Koran were perhaps on the extremist fringe, but he certainly carried everything he believed through to (him) their logical conclusions. He sincerely, devoutly sought “Tash.”

Also, like Zarmina, it seems that Mr. bin Laden (to all appearances) never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in his fifty-four years of life. Born in Saudi Arabia, he was raised a strict Muslim, studied at a Muslim university, and lived in Islamic countries his entire life.

I know: this is tough stuff. I’m merely trying to follow the arguments made by Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Evans through to their logical conclusions.

What is God to do? Only He truly knows the state, the contents, of the respective hearts of Zarmina and Osama bin Laden. But if God is to afford Zarmina His gracious understanding, certainly in fairness He must do the same for Mr. bin Laden, right? Taking into account his upbringing, the hardships of his life, etc., that led him to the path he was on…

What do you think?

Do We Want This "Marriage" To Work? #RestoreUnity

>Let's Get a Divorcephoto © 2005 Monochrome | more info (via: Wylio)

I am a child of divorce. Chances are, about fifty percent of you reading this are as well. It’s the way it was. Would I have liked to have grown up in an unfractured home? Would you? Sure, but for myself, I wouldn’t go back and change it.

It was that sundering of my parents’ marriage, coming at a vulnerable time in my life, that opened me to God’s love.

Not having a dad that cared drove me into the arms of my Heavenly Father. Oh, I resisted for a long time–even told someone that I thought Jesus was likely a space alien!

Can you imagine? I suppose there are weirder things (Hale-Bopp, anyone?) to cling to, but in a way Jesus was an alien–”He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” He was reviled and rejected by the very ones He came to save. Alienated. “Despised and rejected of men” as the Scriptures say.

(As a child of divorce, I felt alienated, too–different from my friends. Alone. Being an introvert, I internalized).

For me, coming to Christ wasn’t so much about propositional truth, as I knew enough to make an informed decision. Yet I resisted making that very decision until His love was modeled for me by someone who cared. Someone who took the time to see beneath the veneer–who was willing to draw me out.

In this case, a girl. A very hot girl!

Interestingly enough, though she demonstrably cared, and compassionately listened (even read my doggerel!), she made it clear that my coming to Christ was paramount.

My broken relationship with Him needed to be addressed. She was not into “missionary dating.”

Thus when the time was right, like C.S. Lewis, I gave in and admitted that God was God–and eventually got the girl, too!

That is grace–His unmerited favor made manifest to me.

So not only did I get a relationship with Christ, but also one with the woman who has been my wife for over twenty years! I’m still amazed!

I used to think that having Jesus in my life would make things easier, but in some ways He’s made it harder. Hidden things come to light, and like a surgeon, He takes my past wounds–our wounds–and operates upon them. He won’t let me be. And there is no arriving, but a constant journey.

And my spiritual health, and growth, is directly contingent upon that of those in my community. Of those in the household of faith. Of which my wife is the closest member.

Due in large part to my background, our road together has not been an easy one. Sharing a common faith doesn’t make our problems go away, and we both brought baggage into the relationship. From time-to-time, we rub each other the wrong way.

Due in large part to my upbringing, we are determined that our marriage will not fail–that our family will not be a statistic like the one in which I grew up.

I often wonder how likewise committed we, as the bride of Christ, are to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we want this “marriage” to work, or are we constantly looking for the escape hatch? Are we not one family in Him (contentious though we are)?

Insofar as the church is concerned, what legacy do we want to leave for our children? Do we build a house together, or keep tearing it down?

From where I sit, the differences don’t matter nearly as much as what we, as Christ followers, have in common. That is unity. That, and love covers a multitude of sins.

It is easier to walk away, but at what cost?

Love doesn’t walk.

What do you think?

This post is part of a synchroblog in support of Rachel Held Evans’ Rally To Restore Unity.

Common Love

>The Unity Candlephoto © 2006 Chris Sternal-Johnson | more info (via: Wylio)

When l think about the watching world, I wonder what it sees. Does it see Christians living in unity?

How do we treat our brothers and sisters in the household of faith? Are we living out Jesus’ words: “By this they shall know you are my disciples, by your love for one another,” or not?

How do we handle those places where we disagree? With hostility? Or humility?

Are we saved in the name of Piper, or Bell, or Graham, or Laurie, or Driscoll–or in the name of Jesus?

It seems to me there’s another way–a harder, but better–way: frame the discussion with the common love we say we share for a common Savior.

The building blocks to unity are all those things that we have in common as Christians. And there is nothing else to do but the hard work of love. The foundation must be laid.

And here is where it is lain: we both say Jesus is Lord, thus that is we start our accord: in common love for an awesome Lord.

Why is this so hard? When the whole world is at stake? While she watches and waits?

Church, we need to get our act together. We are one body in Jesus. Let’s live like it.

Unity is an achievable goal if we shall but humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, and look past the veneer, see the hearts of our brothers and sisters.

Unity. It’s worth the risk. Love takes the risk.

Will you take the risk?

This post is part of a synchroblog in support of Rachel Held Evans’ Rally to Restore Unity.

Because This is My Normal

>Roller Coaster!photo © 2005 Amanda | more info (via: Wylio)

Now that I’m older, and supposedly know better–and thus can (theoretically) combat it–I’m painfully aware that my upbringing set me up to fear success, and thus assure that I, in fact, fail. (Before I proceed, fear not, gentle reader, this is not one of those navel-gazing, “woe is me” posts).

What I mean is that my dad, while successful in the business arena, didn’t model much of anything at all for me. He was distant and uninvolved (something with which I struggle with my own children). Fact is, he didn’t care, so I didn’t share–turned inward instead. And I worked very hard to not be noticed, because such attention as I got was invariably negative.

Can you identify with any of this?

The irony of it all is that, on the one hand, I didn’t want to be noticed, but on the other, I crave the affirmation that I missed out on growing up.

How this usually plays out is that I will achieve a moderate level of success, but then–whether consciously, or no–shoot myself in the foot in some fashion (like the line from Mumford & Sons ‘Roll Away Your Stone,’ I “fill my void with things unreal”).

Here’s a real world example from last Fall: I was getting some moderate notice here on the blog, and then really got all up in Bryan Allain’s grill. He did a couple of things that surprised me:

1) He called me out on my douchebaggery–and was right to do so;

2) He then gave me grace, and consented to the interview that I had so ungraciously asked for.

That was a real shot in the arm!

But then I turned right around and did essentially the same thing to Jon Acuff! Because I didn’t know how to be successful, but was also afraid of it, there are no other words for my behavior towards Jon than that i was a sycophantic d*ck. I wanted him to notice, and affirm, me. But he, rightly, didn’t play along.

Really sorry about that, Jon. Now about that email interview? ;-)

Oh, I guess I got noticed alright–but for all the wrong reasons.

(If you look further back on the blog, you’ll see that I did the same thing to Donald Miller).

The pattern is thus: find a man I respect, look up to, seek affirmation from him (when it’s not his job to do so), and have him subsequently shun me–just like my own dad!

Because that is my normal.

(Just ask my wife how easy I am to live with).

I want off this roller coaster!

How about you? What are some of the foolish things you’ve done online? Who have you alienated? Can you identify with me at all? Is there a “roller coaster” you want off of?

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