Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spirituality, Christianity, Seeking and the Arts

Over the past few years I have noticed a true hunger for spiritual things in the arts. I first noticed this several years ago when I read my first novel by John Grisham. Everyone was reading him, and although I had a general aversion to popular novels, I gave The Testament a try. I was not disappointed. It was a true page-turner. I have learned in the ensuing years that many of Grisham's books fall into that category.

The Testament is not one of Grisham's most popular works, but it is good. And one of the reasons that I liked it so much is that it is a blatantly spiritual novel. In fact, right in the middle of the thing there is a very clear presentation of the Christian faith and how to become a Christian.

Soon thereafter, I joined a reading group that read The Green Mile, by Stephen King. This was my first Stephen King book, and it was not at all what I expected. The main character in the book is a Messiah-figure with miraculous healing powers. One cannot read this book without getting a sense of longing for "otherness," a spiritual yearning. Then I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. In this small book the main character, a little girl lost in the woods, prays. She prays to God.

But it is not just books that have these great spiritual themes. Movies are filled with searching, with thoughts and questions about God. The Matrix trilogy, the Star Wars movies, and many others are about Christian faith. Some of my recent favorites, including Walk the Line, are filled from front to back with Christian themes.

Popular music has followed that lead. Several years ago Christian artists like Kirk Franklin (Stomp) and Bob Carlisle (Butterfly Kisses) had huge popular hits with unashamedly Christian songs. Other Christian artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith worked to achieve some popular crossover success. But more recently it has been the "secular" artists who have made it acceptable to sing about God. Consider Joan Osborne (One of Us) and Kanye West (Jesus Walks).

So why is all this happening? There are probably a million reasons, but I want to focus on only one. People are interested in spiritual things, and especially Christianity, because they have a spiritual hunger inside them. Every person, including you and I, were made to be spiritual. Most humans have a tendency to ignore that natural state. However, sometimes we need to think about God. We need to ask questions, to consider, to seek. That seeking is often displayed in our art.

Seek on!

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