more from radio interview on art, culture and identity

How do you read history?

Well there are many ways in with history. There are many avenues to interpret the rise and fall of different cultures for example. I enjoy reading their symbolic lives mostly, and then tracing that area back into their core identities. As an artist, it is easier for me to read people or places through their creative lives. The symbolic is of course, just one keyhole into identity, but is an important one! For instance, i think it is often easier to dialogue with a person’s creativity than it is their thought life. Certain people have very blocked thought lives, or perhaps in terms of truth have been very hurt there. But God may be having a conversation with that same person through dreams, or through their creative process. I like to enter personal care there, and also i like to interpret history from that perspective.

Do you find that history is easier to read through symbols?

Well, the symbolic life is also broken as is the whole of humanity. So one can read both the brokenness and sort of overhear the redemptive conversation going on there in that area. When Jesus told his people to go find a person of peace in each town, and stay there. I think He also meant go and find the area of peace in each person or place. For some that area of peace–ie where God is having a conversation with them–is their creative or symbolic life. This is especially true for artists. In this way, dialoguing through the arts is a form of evangelism. But I see it more as a form of joining a conversation God is already having with that person or place.

This “area” of peace also applies cross-culturally. Often, for instance, many different cultures can enjoy the same music and get along just fine at a music or art festival, but if you took them to a debate or conference of ideas, they might kill one another. God is not conversing for them in that area yet. So yes, in this sense, I see the arts as a potential bridge builder, or way of finding the place of peace between cultures so there can be a real spiritual dialogue.

If a person’s creativity is completely shut down, i would have to enter through another gate-and there are many other places where God might be talking with this particular person or place. I learned from working in clinical settings for years, that you have to be willing to go to the area where God is already at work with each person. But, I do enjoy the creative the most, because it is how I met God, and we hang out in that terrain a lot.

How did you meet God?

Short version, through making art. I met Him in the symbolic realm. Also in dreams, much as Daniel did, though my dreams were not as interesting as his. But for this reason, i know how He talks there. His style of discourse makes sense to me in the imagination. Much as He first showed Jeremiah something and started training him in interpretation, that has been how my spirituality started and continues to roll.

Do you work with non-artists?

Yes, but especially within Christian circles, it is like having to go cross-cultural for me; which at times, I have felt led to do. But my native language is symbolic. So, i feel God often sends me to or draws other artists to me. Still, i enjoy all sorts of people, and some of my friends do not spend lots of time with God in the creative space. Some are primarily scholars or thinkers, and they know the Father’s mind, and ways of thinking more. I very much appreciate this aspect of who God is. For the deal, of course, is to know and love more and more of who God is!

What do you think God does in His spare time?

Makes more art of course! No, also, i think God’s sense of time is very different than ours. For wisdom to exist there must be a very long glance at each instant from many perspectives-as in great cinema. I do think, though, that He continues to create for pleasure, even outside His ongoing work with humanity. Jesus said, He went away to prepare spaces for us. I imagine even some of that work is creative and symbolic, and even pleasurable for Him. Architecture is after all second only to music in its transcendence. I do not know, however, what it feels like to make art in heaven. At times, i have gotten a glimpse; but it does involve pleasure I think which includes the whole self.

Your idea of art as evangelism seems very different than the previous generation’s?

Well, I think that one of the first big waves in the 20th C was evangelism in terms of carrying the gospel message or statement all over the world. The arts were used in service of that message, so did not always develop as art in itself. I think that after Billy Graham’s generation, that focus shifted and other movements of God have restored other emphasis to the church.

The charismatic and prophetic movements for instance, restored a true focus on worship and praise. And for a season, all the christian arts were primarily about that restoration. So the best christian artist did praise and worship. Not a bad gig! But I think that there is now more a metaphysical restoration of the symbolic dimension itself! This is different, in that the emphasis is on His incarnation into the actual fabric in Reality of the symbolic. He wants to come into that dimension more fully, so there are many artists who feel that just to “be” a space for Him to inhabit their creative process is their purpose. To “be” a portal or portent as David put it.

There is more an ontological movement going on now, about the fabric of Reality. God wants to come more fully into the symbolic dimension–this is part of preparing the way, or building the highway for His Kingdom to come. So artist are allowed to just create their art and see that as their kingdom task. What is clear is that art is not just decorating tracks anymore, because, while that was valid in its time; as was art for the purpose of saving people or carrying the salvation message; we must be willing to be part of newer generations of His purposes, and see them as working together. You see this in the passing of Moses to the Joshua generation.
Joshua had served the Moses generation-the purpose of which was to get the ways of Egypt out and put the mind of God in. The law was given and the foundations were laid, so that the next generation of His Purpose could happen.

And, by the way, God is not interrupted. Even though one people may not carry their purpose well, He still was heading into the land. So you see Joshua, was really part of two generations. For he then leads the people across the Jordan and into the land, and spends his life helping them posses, then occupy the land.

Also, to further digress, one of His Ways is that the symbolic often precedes the fuller incarnation. God tells His Prophets-the symbolizers-things first; they communicate it, and then it comes. This was true in Joshua’s time as well, with the priest doing the symbol first, then all the general body of people cross over the jordan. Same in Jericho etc.-symbol precedes full incarnation. Anyways, back to my point..

You have to keep in mind, that there are “generations of His purposes” not just age brackets! And He can be doing two purposes at once. So in one generation, art is given to serve the message, in another, to lead people to worship Him, in still another to be a place to symbolize His incarnation and restoration. That there is succession of His Purposes, some of which may overlap in one human life time, is important in understanding spiritual history. I think Daniel understood this, for instance.

So in relation to the arts again-how does this generational concept apply?

This concept of generations of His Purposes helps you understand the changing use of art in the church. I know that many artists are relieved to not have to decorate the building anymore, and get on with their creative process. But they are allowed to, because that is the generation of His purpose for them right now. We, as artists, must keep our art on the altar as it were, and be willing to go underwater, or anywhere He is going. God, in our time, is desiring to symbolize Himself, and to restore the symbolic dimension of the world–including cities and nations.

For this reason, some artists are meant to just let Him shine through their own creative process. Others still have more a calling to teach people to worship Him; and these two can occur simultaneously, and do in our time. Knowing your place in the “generations of His Purposes” is essential. For instance, certain seasons He has asked me to use my art more as a prophetic gift either for the church or even into the art world. Still, at other times, He just wants me to make art, and let that creative process be filled with Him. He just wants a symbolic life entirely yielded to Him so He has a place to enjoy His own creativity, and fulfill His own purposes through our creativity. And that is a pleasure for me.

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