Monday, April 20, 2009

God is in the Art

OK... shut down your left brain for a moment, and simply sit with that statement. And when you're ready, you can start reading this entry again.

"God is in the art". I didn't think about it that way until the conclusion of my highly-cultured weekend. Friday, as noted, I was running the lights and sound on a thesis project which examined a society that exists within our own societies. Saturday, I took myself out to the Tallahassee Film Festival showing of "Purple State of Mind", a movie featuring two former college roommates... one an ex-journalist and the other a religion and film professor at a California seminary. The film is about their exchanges and discussions about faith, belief... and the lack of belief on the part of the ex-journalist. It was fascinating! And finally, I was in awe listening to the Tallahassee Community Chorus perform Haydn's "The Creation". It was as if this was the period placed at the end of a very active sentence. The sentence being "God is in the art".

Now I don't think God resides in art. But I do think God inspires artists to deliver a message about God to the masses. The music of Haydn's "The Creation", to me, is an amazing score to the first stories in Genesis. Let there be light... and--SHAZAM-- the sound of it was breathtaking, and apparently did wow its first audiences so much in Vienna that the singers and orchestra had to hold for the applause before continuing! The bass instruments being featured for the creation of the sea creatures, the flutes being featured in the creation of the birds of the air... it was really very cool. And I thought, "Haydn really took this text to heart when he composed this piece!" And, if one believes that God is the inspiration for the myths in Genesis, then by extension, God is the inspiration behind this work.

I do think God is certainly working his purpose out through the conversations and debates between John Marks, formerly of 60 minutes and U.S. News and World Report, and his friend, Craig Dettweiler, a religion professor and filmmaker at Fuller Theological Seminary. Watching this movie, I was struck with how Marks, who comes up with lots of reasons for why he lost his faith and he can't buy into God, is still talking and challenging his friend who came to believe in God and Jesus in college and has been deepening his faith ever since. I had a chance to talk to both men after the film (they were there as part of the Festival, as well as public speaking engagements at St. John's). Marks had been assigned to cover the Balkans War back in the 1990s... and it was there that he finally closed the book on God in his life. I told him that I was a former journalist myself and had witnessed an execution in the electric chair. And I found myself doing the opposite of what he did. He gave up on a notion of God; I found myself desperate to find God and seek forgiveness. And then we shared the difficulty a gay person encounters in THAT quest when you have a church and the people of God standing in your way!
Interestingly, Dettweiler... who had apparently at one time believed that God "doesn't like artists because they ask too many questions", has become a film artist, a believer in Christ... and annoys his friend in the movie because he answers Marks' questions WITH questions. Dettweiler shared with me that he's become an Episcopalian... and I laughed and said, "Oh, well no wonder you answer all of John's questions with questions!"

Even Josh Potter's play has the markings of a piece of work that has God speaking through it. There is the argument between the interviewer and the AIDS nurse over judgment... and not wanting judgment from a gay man on the behaviors of the interview subjects, but simply the opinion of a medical expert. And then there is listening to the interviewees. What they say, what their motivations are for "bug chasing" are as individualistic as the people themselves. But as a person who heard this play a half-dozen times last week as we prepared for the performance, I was left with feeling that we live in a wounded world when sex, and sexual enjoyment, becomes linked with fatalism. God is not absent from this world and God hasn't left these men behind. But the choices they are making are taking them further away from life and into death. And the belief that, "Once I'm infected, I'll just pop a pill, no big deal" is, to me, pure sadness.

If you can hear Haydn's "The Creation" do! Tallahasseeans have one more shot this evening to see "Purple State of Mind" at the IMAX Theatre. And if Josh's play ever gets developed and staged elsewhere, seek it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you shared your thoughts with others as you did with me over the phone. I wish I could hear The Creation as I know it would move me greatly.

Good blog.