Skye Jethani is the editor of Leadership Journal. In his new book, “The Divine Commodity, Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity,” he asks the central question, “Does Today’s Church Lack Imagination?” To answer that question he uses Van Gogh’s faith and paintings as a backdrop.
Your question makes me think of Titus 1:15—“To the pure all things are pure.” In a way there are many films, songs, books, and images that point our imaginations to God even though the artist may not have intended this. To those who are seeking after Christ and his kingdom, they see glimpses of it all the time in the most peculiar places.
This may get me in trouble with some people, but I found myself more enraptured with a vision of God’s love, victory, friendship, hope, and redemption by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films than by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Similarly, right now I’m reading an historical book about flower gardens in war zones—nothing even remotely religious, theological, or Christian. But for me it has become a window into the way God bring beauty from ashes and shines his light into our deepest darkness. As your imagination becomes increasingly sanctified, to use C.S. Lewis’ term, you’ll find that virtually everywhere you look—Christ is waiting to be found.
To answer your question more concretely, I believe we should engage more of the novels written by modern Catholic authors like Flannery O’Connor and the Japanese-Catholic writer Shusaku Endo. (For some reason the higher church traditions seem to produce the more imaginative fiction writers—perhaps it has something to do with their sacramental view of creation.) Endo’s book Silence, which I read last year, is a powerful exploration of faith, doubt, and obedience with no clean resolution. Many of these books force us to wrestle with faith on a level far messier than the easy-answer-evangelicalism many of us have been formed by.
Beyond this suggestion, I’m interested to hear what others think. What artists have helped point your imagination back to God?