Cohering Faith and Art
All of us engaged by the beauties of authentically living Abrahamic faith also belong to new, emerging architectures. Our nascent longings to touch, taste, see, feel and hear divine essence in our lives imbues both the visual and hearing kingdoms, reflecting our love for God in places of belonging, and echoing inner joy–d'veykus (cleaving to God) by the beauties of monasticism, contemplative life and prayer. And it's here, in these structures our most soulful emotion outpours when we meet in minyan or congregate "where two or more gather in His name." Churches and synagogues, mosques, monasteries and retreat centers serve us along the way of intentionally traveling a path of surrender to God. As ecumenical interfaith artists and community participants, our contributions to lived faith draw us toward God's lustrous center. We enter these constructs as tabernacles and dwelling places–inside bedouin tents, under thatched-reed roofs or gold basilica, Cordovan arched domes or steel spires, humbled in heart by varying degrees, as we anticipate dialogue with the Divine.
Multi-sensory design and the aesthetics of form in modern, ecumenical artworks partially comprise the complex, richly textured life of devotional worship. Through sensate experiences, we repossess inner and outward grace of God's Divine mercy bringing the kingdom of Heaven on earth. Contemporary ecclesial art contributes to spiritual formation–animating and engaging the devotional heart for God. Such engagement is shaped by visually sculpted language. "The eye is the lamp of the body; when your eye is clear your whole body is also full of light." LUK 11:34. Interplays of letterforms enliven–illumining and setting our hearts on fire. And cohering faith and art we're able to inhabit seamless moments of spiritual construction, contemplation, completion. In these moments, we move and connect to Faith in the myriad splendor of God's reciprocal intimacy. Numinous energies coalesce to make a joyful noise to God—sound sculpted into expressions of the Gospel. Hammered on the anvil, welded by spiritual discipline and devotion, with mallet and chisel and dies "in creating we are God's workmanship." As a designer of distinctly modern sensibilities, (fusing art and faith through a theologically-intoned aesthetic) I continue to turn toward enacting the sublime–encouraged by the example of Saint Paul who "not only used the cultural artifacts at hand, but in a radical move also bent them toward the Gospel, making them work for him and his audience as a means of [devotional and] apologetic Grace."
As artists belonging to the Abrahamic Faiths, we’re mandated to define the relationship between obedience and transgression; for visual artists this falls within the context and specificity of the second commandment, You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected--even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands EX 20:4-6. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have stern injunctions against sensory forms of artistic expression. For us as Christians there seems no other Commandment we sometimes elect cavalierly and selectively, or quixotically and idiosyncratically to follow.