By Brian Swarts
Good art is, by nature, prophetic – it unveils truths about our world around us, by bringing us face-to-face with realities we normally let pass unnoticed or purposefully choose to avoid. In the Bible, the work of a prophet was to bring people face-to-face with God’s truth. Today, there is a great need for “prophetic Christian artistry” – encompassing diverse art forms from music to painting to film. Following the prophetic tradition from Jeremiah to Jesus, prophetic Christian art juxtaposes the kingdom of God with our own culture and society.
After the mid-term elections, Newsweek featured a cover on “The Politics of Jesus,” about how many Christians are moving away from the politically-dominated agenda of the Religious Right, and embracing a deeper vision for transforming culture that follows Jesus’s “least of these” perspective – taking on issues like global poverty and climate change.
Why am I so interested in this issue? Because I run an organization called the Oregon Center for Christian Values with a mission to “inspire a Christian vision for the common good.” Our goal is to promote a new understanding of Christianity and politics, but we must “prophetic” rather than “political” in this work – that is must follow truth rather than power.
Recently, I have been thinking about the role of prophetic artistry in keeping the “politics of Jesus” face-to-face with God’s truth. Let me give an example.
In Portland, a theater group called Sojourn is pioneering techniques in using theater to help communities confront and discuss difficult social concerns, like poverty and diversity. Using interactive drama, this group brings community members face-to-face with real daily situations, and challenges them to think critically and respond. We believe that this kind of artistry can be used to help Christians honestly face our role in today’s culture and society, gauging whether we are really following Jesus’s example of honoring the least and the last.
Of course, the possibilities of prophetic artistry are as limitless as our imaginations, and I am always on lookout for new examples of prophetic artistry. So, if you know of any examples you have seen, or if you are inspired with an artistry of your own, I hope that you will share these with me and with others on this blog. Let us become artful tellers of truth.
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