Creativity and Justice – Out of the Box
by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
I love nothing more than sitting in a room with creatives. Ideas bounce around the room at the speed of light and imaginations are let loose. With no budget restraints and no black hats we can envision seismic moments of wonder and amazement. Arms fling wide, eyebrows shoot high and giggles ensue.
Then at the drop of a hat we go deep like submarines. “But what effect are we after?” “What will elicit the most change”? “Is this provocative enough”? “Will it hit the mark and make a mark”?
I am in a brainstorming session, we are discussing the link between creativity and justice and the fact that in church settings or in the religious context, both of these topics are most often relegated to the margins of church programmes instead of being at the heart and centre of the gospel.
Segue: So what is Justice and Creativity?
Justice: Jesus and Justice are inseparable. Justice is the sceptre and throne of God, it is what He rules by. Justice sits at the very centre of the character and nature of the Godhead.
Justice is the quality of being just; righteousness, it is equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause. Justice is finding out why something is wrong and then doing something about it.
Creativity: is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations etc.: it is also originality, progressiveness, or imagination.
“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.”
I believe that artists sit and live in the margins. We are boundary pushers. We flick triggers and put our toes over the line. If art doesn’t make you think, if it is not provocative in some way then it is not doing its job. Artists and creatives are the people in this world who are able to take the pulse of the community, feel the heartbeat of society and interpret it for the rest of us.
Unfortunately in doing so we are sometimes misunderstood, and or get ourselves into trouble.
We teeter totter between showing you the other side and pushing you off. We are tightrope walkers, bridge builders, tension holders. We strive to get the balance right. How much is too much and what is not enough?
Back to the Brainstorming Session:
Thinking hard on the Title for a Conference Session that is being planned we burst into gales of laughter as someone blurts out: I’ve Got it – “Mother God – the Shit Stirrer”. As the hilarity settles some of us try to argue that this is a brilliant title, while those who are slightly more sane explain that this title ‘could’ alienate some people so we agree that titles like “Paradox and Parables” or “Creativity is Messy” maybe softer options. When in truth all of us really really want to call the session “Mother God the Sit Stirrer”. See I just had to repeat it.
Artists don’t like platitudes and easy answers. Artists navigate controversy, they see the injustices, they look through the bubble wrap that people cocoon themselves in, they see the paradox of life and the fact that broken-ness effects us all. We are mystics and misfits and we live in the margins and on the edges. We sit with the lepers and the prositutes and talk easily with the addict and the homeless, we love the broken hearted and see the beauty in their grief etched faces and we try, oh we try, to make others see too. In our music, in our writing, in our painting, in our poetry, in our dance and in our photography.
Life is messy. Life is mean. But life is also beautiful and good and precious.
Mainstream institutions cringe at the bluntness and honesty of the artist. They like their bubble wrap and their neat programmes. They like their moral absolutes and rights and wrongs. But they miss the point. Life is messy, its risky, its costly and it challenges. Life does not fit in a box. Creatives know this, they ask you to reflect on it to sit with it, to ponder, to contemplate, to hold the tension. But this does not fit into busy church programmes so they evict us and minimise us and ‘shhh’ us and give us nice alternative words to say.
‘In my experience, the Christian painter or poet, sculptor or dancer, is regularly regarded as something of a curiosity, to be tolerated, humoured, maybe even allowed to put on a show once in a while. But the idea that they are, or could be, anything more than that – that they have a vocation to re imagine and re express the beauty of God, to lift our sights and change our vision of reality – is often not even considered.’ N.T. Wright
But the story dances on, the narrative will not be quite. Art squeezes out between the cracks in the box like vibrant magenta oil paint on a blank white canvass. If the institutions evict us, or cringe at us, we will live in the margins. We will live with the marginalised and the rejected and the hopeless because we totally get what its like to be marginalised and rejected. We love justice. We try to walk with truth, we endeavour to be true to ourselves and true to our art. We believe that there is more, so much more to the spoon fed messages that are being broadcast from pulpits around the world.
N.T. Wright says so brilliantly:
‘The real ‘you’ is designed to be creative. The Christian mind is not simply a computer designed to process the truths of the gospel, turn them into moral imperatives, and instruct the will to act them out. The Christian is to reflect God’s image, says Paul in Colossians 3; and the image is precisely the image of the creator’.
Wright continues on to say that ‘we are… to bring forth new things, new life, different ways of looking at the world. …we are God’s artwork. The word in Greek is poiēma, the word from which we get ‘poem’. We are God’s poetry, and, says Paul, we are created in the image of Jesus for the good works which God prepared beforehand. Not just moral good works. That’s just the start. That’s just learning the grammar of love. Christian holiness is not an end in itself,… That is why sin is enslaving: it doesn’t just mess you up where you are, it stops you even getting to first base with the new and creative things God wants to do through you.
God is, after all, the free and exuberant creator. (me doing a happy dance).
He made giraffes and chickens, oak trees and butterflies, sunrise and moonrise, the music of a waterfall and the smile that lights up a baby’s face.
We are to reflect the image of this God. (I like this God). We are given our freedom as Christians so that we can help to fill God’s world with new artworks, whether it be what we call ‘art’, music or painting or dance or whatever, or the larger artistry which through love and service brings colour and life and hope to God’s world’. N.T. Wright.
Did you get that, life and hope to Gods world, through art and justice.
We need creativity to bring about justice because; creativity breaks us out of the box. People love boxes. Make it neat, tell me what steps I need to follow. Keep it simple. Not only do we like boxes, we like them tied up nice and tight with a pretty bow.
Unfortunately life is not neat, it is not simple, its complex and time consuming.
About the Box.
Creatives go: “There’s a box”?
Which is why we need them so much. Creatives are able to bring fresh ideas and vision about the way to do things and how to see things. The are not afraid of mess or margins or change or risk. They ask you to step out of the box for a minute and have a look around.
There is life outside the box, there is beauty to be found, there is space, and time and rest and joy – outside the box.
“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”
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