My first column in The Lutheran appeared in January 1989 as the magazine began its second year of publication. This one is my last: I’m retiring after 20 years.
As the editors graciously gave me the opportunity to make this column personal, I’m offering a few comments and suggestions that reflect my strong beliefs.
Art enhances religious faith. Like faith, art transcends facts and requires the involvement of imagination. Art takes us out of our everyday world and into the whole of God’s creation. It broadens our experiences and reaches into the deep places of our hearts. Art is a natural vehicle for expressing religious feelings.
Art for the church goes far beyond music. Painting, sculpture, dance, literature, poetry, drama and weaving are among the many forms that can be evocative parts of worship and congregational life.
Art need not have a specifically religious subject to have religious meaning. All art that makes us think about life’s truths, positive or negative, can have religious significance.
The late Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler wrote: “Van Gogh so paints a pair of old shoes that there is evoked from the beholder a deep sense of both the terror and the dignity of our common humanity....”
Don’t worry too much about an artist’s intentions. It’s your experience of the work that will be most meaningful. But do engage the art actively: Ask questions and challenge yourself.
Art need not be expensive. Invite local artists to exhibit in your building. Ask an art teacher or professor to talk about the importance of religion in art history. Visit art museums and take the children. Buy books for your church library and rent videos. Hold discussion groups. Enroll in a class or lessons. The possibilities are endless.
Reach beyond the ordinary. Take a leap of faith — your faith will prosper.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers