I am often in the Atlanta airport. Never it seems, is my departing plane in the same area as where I land, so I find myself traveling from concourse to concourse.
There are two options of navigation in this, the world’s largest airport. One is to take advantage of the tram that whisks between the concourses – or, you can walk.
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If not in a hurry, I walk. And for quite some time, there have been sculptures, art and carvings from Zimbabwe exhibited in the corridors. Strong, angry, desperate visions of a suffering country that has been raped by leadership seems to flow from these works of art.
William Dyrness, in his book Visual Faith, quotes a Japanese artist, Fujimura, who found himself responding to Christ through a poem by William Blake. Although that wasn’t necessary the author’s intent, it shows how art can always take us to the Creator. Through the images portrayed in the airport in Atlanta, I too, am challenged by the Creator about justice and my next steps in life.
It hasn’t always been that way for me or for many pastors who live by the spoken word. Recently, our church’s annual pastor’s retreat was held at a conference room at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. An hour was given during the day for contemplation of the exhibits. Regrettably, many finished early and went back to studying their Bibles and manuals, believing that words have much more power than the visual.
Dyrness states that we “live in a generation raised on a steady diet of the visual.” But yet we continue to rely on words for communication. He continues, saying that “God’s purposes, rather than being seen as law-like, can be understood as potentials within creation,” when art is present.
Erwin McManus and Rob Bell are a few that get it. They have broadened their influence, from only speaking and writing, investing in videos, movies, retail, a line of leather goods and when they do write, even the books are laid out in a creative, artistic form.
Although we have been trained to feel, that for the Christian message to be promulgated, art needs to be explained with words, Dyrness reminds us that images can have their own impact and can “affect us deeply, drawing us closer to God.” My prayer is that we echo the same thoughts and allow art to blossom – for God’s sake.