Refractions

I recently started reading Makoto Fujimura’s book, “Refractions”. Only a few pages in and it is already excellent. The foreword was written by one of my favorite authors/theologians Tim Keller (excerpt below).

I have grown increasingly frustrated by Christians creating art (both visual and auditory) and leaning on the crutch of Christian themes, symbols and words to justify it. I’m absolutely not arguing that all Christian art, movies and music are bad – but it has made me question how we define and enjoy art.

There is incredible beauty in the broken world, and we should delight in it. Humans, I think, are naturally drawn to the idea of creation, and by nature people want to make beautiful creation. No child sits on his floor for hours scribbling away in an attempt to create something ugly – he does it so that his parents will think it is beautiful, delight in it and display it for everyone who visits the house.

Art, songs, movies and books are wonderful mediums for that, and Christians should take joy in and engage in that just as Athiests do. What a horrible message it would actually be for Christians to produce half-hearted kitsch media under the guise of making “Christian art”. The only thing worse would be for Christians to embrace it and excuse the lack of actual depth, meaning and substance.

Every Monday morning, a friend and I meet before work to discuss life, women, friends, theology, music, art and whatever else emerges. The last two weeks of meals have been almost solely devoted to defining “good art”. Does “good art” simply tell “the truth”? If so, define “the truth” in terms of visual arts – is that dictated by line, shape and color, or is it something deeper? If it’s something deeper, does that mean a 5 year old’s erratic but labored and genuine superhero sketch is “good art”, and the art students’ weekly assignment is not? Can typography alone tell the truth? Where do personal tastes and ability come in to play?

It’s likely all of the above questions will stay on my mind for the coming weeks, although most probably won’t ever get answered to complete satisfaction. One thing is for certain, though – it gives meaning and provokes lots of thought when I attempt to create.

“Broken Splendor” – Makoto Fujimura


I’ve seen something of this unifying power even in my own church services. Because I minister
in new York city, our congregation contains some of the best musicians in the
world. The music in our services is always excellent, but occasionally we have a
musical offering that is so superb and affecting that everyone listening is stunned
into silence and moved to tears. And guess what? It is not members rather than
visitors, or christians rather than non-christians, who are touched. everyone is
brought together; everyone is included. Interestingly, this happens only when the
art is skillful and well-done.
When the music is mediocre or bad, my members
may be edified a bit if they know and love the musician personally, but visitors and
strangers are bored and excluded by the experience.