I love a good art show. And I appreciate comfy socks.
And I also know that art shows and socks will not change a deeply entrenched culture of inequity. And that’s what we need right now if we are serious about making earth “as it is in heaven.”
I was in a meeting last week with a group of Church People and a local community organizer whom I’ll call R.
We were discussing what our city needs in light of the violence in our neighborhoods, the uneven opportunities for public education, the lack of COVID-19 testing available in predominantly African American neighborhoods, etc.
The conversation was about inequity. “How can the Church make a positive difference?” we asked. And I loved the community organizer’s response:
“We don’t need anymore art shows.”
Again, I’m fan of art shows. I’ve known congregations who have invited the neighbors to display their masterpieces in the hopes of 1) appreciating local artists and 2) offering a way for those artists to make some money by selling their paintings. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Sure. It’s simple to pull off a local art show on a random Saturday. It requires minimal commitment and effort. It’s an opportunity to “reach out into the neighborhood” and subsequently congratulate ourselves. It’s even Quarantine Legal if we are outside wearing masks and standing six feet apart.
Again – yay art. This very blog is named for starving artists who see how the world can be different.
And who doesn’t need sturdy socks – especially if you live on the streets? A congregation sets out a box and people donate a pair or two and then – done. Somebody takes the socks to a local shelter and we feel a great about it. Easy.
The community organizer made us all laugh when he suggested that we forget about the art shows and sock collections. If we want to offer a simple, painless project then – by all means – exhibit some paintings for sale and donate socks.
But the Church is called to make sacrifices, not offer simple gestures. R. said that what we really need – at least in our particular city – was for congregations to:
- Offer violence interruption programs.
- Teach social entrepreneurship.
- Help change the culture of our local police department.
(I can hear you now, Church People.)
You are suggesting that we get political.
We don’t have any business doing those things.
Church is supposed to be about Bible studies and hymn sings, not “social justice.”
I don’t know what Bible you are reading, but mine says that Jesus was killed for political reasons, that Jesus calls us to get involved in the lives of the poor and imprisoned, and that Jesus charges all disciples to feed the poor and heal the sick – among other things.
One of the reasons why the Institutional Church has floundered through the years is because we have forgotten The Great Commission and The Great Commandments.
We spend lots of energy on projects like Bake Sales and Candy Sales, Preschools and Vacation Bible Schools, Book Studies and Bible Studies. And all of these programs are good. Nothing wrong with them.
But if we are serious about discipleship (i.e. following Jesus) it won’t be enough. The One who changed the world expects us to change the world too – in his name. God has blessed us with these pandemic, protest-filled days to remind us that following Jesus involves sacrifice. Sometimes we need a painful jolt to wake us up – especially if our daily lives are comfortable.
Yay for art shows and sock collections.
But what have we done lately – in faith – to change the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ?
Image of a church art show. I’ve covered up the church sign because my point isn’t to embarrass that particular congregation.
My church hosted an art show last year where the pieces present were all created by Middle Eastern women; we were the final stop on an itinerary that was world wide. By being part of this international statement, local representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other groups came together to debate, inform and welcome. Not ducks on a pond…
Another art show at my church was made up of portrait-photos (not candid, sneak up, type images) of local street people. Images were life-size and hung at eye level, implying a degree of ‘equality’. These individuals are our neighbors and need us to care for them. People wept upon hearing of the death of one of them who, refusing to accept shelter, froze to death.
Art shows that celebrate events in the lives of the congregation build community ties in ways that other forms of interaction don’t touch.
Please don’t relegate Art Shows to the social-touchy-feely heap of interaction.
And BTW, if done thoughtfully, Art Shows are not easy to pull off…
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Great Article! Amen! Perhaps at some point you’ll feel inspired to help us envision what: – Offer violence interruption programs. – Teach social entrepreneurship. – Help change the culture of our local police department. looks like! Blessings, Cindy
As an artist, I bristled at “who needs art shows”. We all do. Many of your quarantined church folk (like me) have maintained our sanity during this time by making art. I have turned my creative energy into making masks. Art has value and does not merit being thrown out because there’s no more room to store it. I hope whoever made that suggestion was being flippant and didn’t realize the magnitude of what they were saying.
Art is essential & life-giving. No argument there. And we need to offer support to our neighbors that involves the harder work of feeding the hungry & housing the homeless. Thanks for your comment.