I’m asking myself how faith affects my life. My art. The Bleeding Heart project. I’m asking myself if faith still matters, and if so, how.
It would all be easier if it did not. At least it feels that way at times. If the Bleeding Heart were a project about "art, hope and love” rather than “art, faith, hope and love”, so many conversations would get less awkward. I feel, at least, like different doors might open. After all, we’re talking about a very old and rather unpopular Christian faith in this case.
A Christian faith with a tarnished record. Abuse. Empire. Patriarchy. Exclusion. Rabid fundamentalism. All of these evils hang onto the Christian story like filth dragged from back alleys on the long train of a spotless bride.
An ancient Christian faith with boxes full of dusty, complicated metaphors and symbols like ‘spotless bride’.
I ask myself about faith–why and how it still matters–as I clean out my basement.
Some dusty boxes have not been opened 1o years. Not since we moved them in. Some boxes are stuffed with Bible College papers and Sunday school lessons. Others have old journals from when I used to spend hours each week reading the Bible, praying and taking copious notes. I listened for God’s voice and marked what I heard. I heard.
All of that seems as far away now as it is. Fifteen years or so. Some of it I recall wistfully. The discipline. The time for the discipline. The deep commitment. Other parts repel me. Things I would not take back if I could. The duty and the dogma. The detailed charts layout out the apocalypse with Pre-millennial Pentecostal clarity. Although I think I only ever knew that part for a short time, and only then to study for a final theology exam.
So much of what I once learned has been forgotten over 15 years. I throw those laboured-over papers into the recycle bin. I’m downsizing. I keeping only what I think I need or really, really want now. This list is much shorter than it was when I packed the boxes.
I suppose I’m doing the same thing in life. Unpacking. Evaluating. Discarding.
I am in between churches. Out of official spiritual leadership for a time. Asking myself what matters. I am wondering what to keep and what to chuck.
I’m more certain about what I keep now than ever. But there are less and less of these keepsakes.
This whole process has dropped questions in my mind. Questions I put to you now.
How does your faith impact your art?
How would your art be different without your faith?
For me, these questions get at the boxes of my inner life. What needs to go? What needs to stay? These questions also get at the heart of why (or if) faith matters to The Bleeding Heart Art Space. Why we continue to fight for its inclusion in this project.
My own answers don’t come easy. I begin by thinking about content. What my art is about. I do sing about my faith. That’s obvious in my work. Some songs even retell Biblical stories. But not every song touches on faith, nor do any of them need to. I could sing about those things from outside of belief anyways. Songs like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah are able to consider faith without clear commitment. Besides, perhaps offering up answers rather than questions is more toxic to art than helpful.
To be honest, it can be difficult to parse where I’ve included faith in my writing from a place of latent guilt or duty and where faith flows organically, from my heart.
All of this got me questioning whether faith really mattered to my artmaking at all. Then my answer hit me.
For me, it’s not about content at all. It’s not even about the work. It’s about the fact that I am making work at all. That I have the courage and creativity and the capacity of the heart to do so.
My Christian faith has shown me in a very real and deep way that I am loved. Loved-to-the-death by a God who made himself graspable by becoming a human person in Jesus.
The more I understand that love, the more I am able to love myself. The more I love myself, the more I am able to see the value in the gifts I have been given and my offering them to the world.
For a good part of my life, I have struggled with self-worth and self-doubt. Still do. If anything is going to stop me from making and sharing work with the world, it is going to be my own self-talk. I am a fraud. I am no good. I am derivative and unoriginal. I am lazy. I am too young. I am too old.
When the lighting of God’s love cracks that cage in two, I am free to fly into the open.
I talk to a lot of artists and I sense a lot of pain. Doubt. Fear. Rejection. Negative self-talk.
I have found nothing more powerful to offer another human being in their pain than the love story of Jesus. This love still has a pull on me. Yeah. It still matters.
Divine Love is what I am taking with me, even as I dump so much from those old boxes. This is how my faith fuels my art, and my life.
This is my answer. What is yours?