I just finished reading Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. The themes of this book are very familiar, but good and necessary to study again. I'll do a review of it sometime, but today I want to focus on one little paragraph in the book that I disagree with, it's something fairly insignificant and yet for me it reflects a significant shift in my thinking in the past few years.
He is referring to his wife's grandmother, a woman who he says loved Jesus more than anyone he'd ever met. They are sitting together with some of his wife's relatives, watching a play. During intermission he asked the grandmother if she was enjoying the play, and she said, "Oh honey, I really don't want to be here right now. I just don't know if this is where I want to be when Christ returns. I'd rather be helping someone or on my knees praying. I don't want him to return and find me sitting in a theater."
I am familiar with this way of thinking. I do not question this woman's sincere love for Christ, but I disagree with the belief that watching a play- or reading books or playing sports (no, sports somehow are acceptable but I'm not sure why?) or . . . anything other than praying and helping people is unspiritual. The way that I have seen this perspective play out is faith that is often brittle, pragmatic . . . without elegance or loveliness . . . typically with underlying judgment toward people who do these other things. People who think this way don't plant trees or study literature or hike the Appalachian Trail. Education is purely practical and vocation is only a means to an end. Basically, anything that is not praying or helping people- in their narrowly defined form prayer and help- is unspiritual.
(I remember asking my art professor if he felt it was okay to make art and spend so much money on paint when there are so many hungry people in the world, and how clearly annoyed he was with the question!)
I can't really give a chapter and verse, except that I no longer believe that life can be divided. Everything in life can and should be offered as praise to God- whether you are praying in church or acting in a play or just getting dressed in the morning.
I don't think the play has to somehow have the Roman's Road worked into it, either, only that the art is true. This is why Christian "art" is so tragically lacking- the narrow definition of what is spiritual has produced some of the most tasteless, meaningless, "untrue" art.
In Bright Evening Star, Madeleine L'Engle makes a comment about the way her friend was raised:
"It was far more important that you live a virtuous Christian life than that you might write Beethovan's Ninth Symphony."I have thought a lot about this comment. Yes, it is the religion I was raised with, too, and it is difficult to break out of this way of thinking. Does it have to be virtue "or" art? Can't a life given to praise value- and create- both?
Has anyone else ever struggled with this dichotomy?