LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Alice Bass, Part 2: Believer-Artists

I’m talking with Alice Bass (http://www.thfairfax.blogspot.com), actress, script-writer, creative consultant and author of The Creative Life: A Workbook for Unearthing the Christian Imagination.

LeAnne: On Monday I asked why Christians sometimes fear their own creativity. Now let me add to that another question: why do we fear creativity in others?

I think there is a distinction in fearing someone else’s creativity and fearing art. I don’t distrust art (any of the arts – film, literature, music, fine art, etc.) as a medium for expression. I think for many years we’ve created a culture in which Christians fear art. But art is like money – in itself it is not evil, it is the misuse of it which is destructive.

That said, fearing someone else’s creativity can be a valid concern – I know how I’ve been affected by movies or music or literature that has unexpected darkness or ugliness in it. It’s hard for me to shake that. Our imaginations can easily be imprinted, so for me, I guard my imagination and know the limits of what I can take in and what I can’t. I can take a Mel Gibson movie with violence and language but I have trouble with movies and literature that have a great deal of despair. So I guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, and choose wisely what I read or watch. I find artists whom I trust, and follow their work. By trusting, I mean I trust them not to hijack me with something ugly without preparing me for it.

LM: What would you say to artists who may be afraid or may not have the confidence to take risks necessary to pursue their art?

I’ve been asking people to consider using a new term lately. Instead of Christian artist, I’m saying that I am a believer-artist. Is Bono a Christian Artist? Well, certainly. But not all of his work has a Christian content. The same goes for Patricia Heaton, Rene Russo, Mel Gibson--these are people who’ve professed their belief and have created art. Sometimes it is Christian art as in Gibson’s The Passion and Heaton producing Amazing Grace. Sometimes their work is not Christian in content, as in Apocalypto or Everybody Loves Raymond but even in those pieces you can see the choices they make being influenced by their beliefs.

I think changing the way we look at ourselves will give artists more freedom to follow God into creating all sorts of art work, be it Christian in content or not. If we make a culture shift in how we refer to ourselves, that will widen the circle and suddenly our work that was formerly considered a risk because it was ‘secular’ will not be seen as so ‘risky’. I hope that believer-artists will be able to do work that speaks to the culture and to the Church.

Regardless of what kind of art you do or whether your creativity is used in your child rearing or in your vocation or your relationships, we must take the risk of being creative. By nature we are creative, even if we don’t use that gift. I think it is more risky to refuse a gift from God, don’t you?

LM: Yes, I agree: it certainly is. You mentioned the Church earlier. What can the Church do to encourage believer-artists?

With new technology, churches are starting to incorporate graphic arts, video and other media into their culture and worship and that is a good way to encourage artists to use their gifts in the Church. I think that adopting a mindset of supporting the believer-artist would be important. If we only support Christian content in art we’ll limit our ability to reach out to the culture.

To really embrace the arts and artists as the Church we must remember that art is not good or evil in itself. The way we can have an impact is in equipping the artists -- serving them in their faith and building them up in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Artists need a lot of care and comfort, whether we support their particular expression of art or not. All artists face a tremendous amount of rejection, criticism and competition, almost daily. If we as the Church could care for artists in such a way that they felt loved and supported, their art would grow in grace and beauty. If we offer to equip and strengthen the artist in the ways of God, then the artist can grow in confidence and godliness.

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