What do you do when you’re asked to write something that you might not agree with? Recently I was asked to interview an artist whose work is on display at a well known gallery. Usually, this is something I look forward to, but when I viewed her website my spirit stirred uncomfortably within me. While her subject matter is a rugged National park with surprising canyons, her message combines the tenets of two trendy religions, fraught with deception, albeit very popular and appearing innocuous.
What was I to do? I prayed much about this. It is my job to cover topics that my paper assigns me. Should I refuse this particular assignment so that I could honour Truth? I didn’t want to encourage potential viewers of her art to follow her over the cliff into a canyon of darkness. However, I also felt that I should try to cover this assignment to the best of my ability, while staying true to absolute standards.
The Lord answered quickly and clearly with four quotes I came across all within a few hours. I had missed one day of my Easter reading plan so I returned to that chapter to finish it off and this verse resonated with me: “For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (IPeter2:6). I knew that I had to stand my ground on the foundation of Jesus. Then, whatever I wrote would be grounded on the solid rock of Truth. I would write well with respect to the paper and the craft and even if people didn’t approve of my writing, I also knew that I would never be put to shame.
But, that still didn’t solve exactly how I was to write this article. Within minutes, a little bamboo sound notified me I had email. It was a quote by Francis Schaeffer from his book, Art and the Bible. Curious, I opened it and it helped me discern how I should approach this article. It said, “If the artist’s technical excellence is high, he is to be praised for this, even if we differ with his world view. Man must be treated fairly as man.” Aha, I could angle this piece towards the artist’s technical expertise, which was interesting and highly praised. I still had a niggle in my spirit, though.
Interestingly, I delved deeper into Schaeffer’s theory and found this gem: “As Christians, we must see that just because an artist – even a great artist -portrays a worldview in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that worldview. Good art heightens the impact of that worldview, but it does not make it true.”
I knew what I had to do.
That afternoon I had an appointment to interview the curator and to view the art. While technically it appeared well done (I’m not an artist but it truly was stunning), there was an aura of death about it, which even the curator pointed out. Every piece featured a skull, and most of them were painted over the scenic canyons and landscape. Impossible to miss. That was part of her message, that life dies and is reborn again as another creature.
I wrote the piece pointing out her engaging technique and the subject matter of the park. Rather than giving my opinion, which I am not really supposed to do, I invited the the viewer to ask questions about it such as, “How many animals can you count in each scene? Do you see the cycle of life and death? What do you think of it? What message is the artist trying to portray? Do you agree or disagree? If you could ask the artist one question, what would it be?” Asking questions, I feel, gives the viewer the opportunity to think for themselves, and maintains freedom of expression for both the viewer and the artist.
That evening I picked up my novel, “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn, and wouldn’t you know it, the chapter I read included a scene with people involved in this religion. My heart pounded and I chilled. God had heard my prayer and was pointing out the darkness and deception I am surrounded by. Although the artist is sweet, engaging, and even invited me to have tea with her, I feel that she has been deceived. It affirmed to me that I must speak truth and have nothing to do with innocent sounding lies.
We walk along valleys of the shadow of death, but we fear no evil. I am learning to navigate these dark canyons as a writer.
Asking questions and allowing the other person to tell their story and the reasons for their message is a good place to begin. Maybe even having tea with them. But standing firm on the Cornerstone of truth – by the grace of God - is where I will remain.