The Role of Art in Healing, Love & Justice-Making

Our two most recent DMs celebrated the life and work of Norman Lear who revolutionized television comedy and television itself by daring to shed light on the brokenness in our society.  His method?  The art of comedy. 

Norman Lear, interviewed by his son-in-law Dr. Jonathan LaPook, talks about the importance of laughter, listening, and social activism in keeping him going strong. CBS Sunday Morning

By getting us to laugh, he taught us to listen more deeply to self and others.  And to those different from ourselves.

All art is meant to do this: To heal.  To awaken.  To tell the truth.  To bring people together. Surely this is one reason Jesus chose the art of parable-telling as his mode of waking people up.

In his iconic book, Jesus Before Christianity, South African theologian Albert Nolan says:

Nothing could be more unauthoritative than the parables of Jesus.  Their whole purpose is to enable the listener to discover something for oneself.  They are not illustrations of revealed doctrines; they are works of art which reveal or uncover the truth about life.

Rachel Maddow looks at Ron DeSantis’ desperate “war on woke” in the context of Florida politicians waging a similar battle to their own political detriment in the 1950s. MSNBC

Today some politicians are busy turning the theme of “waking up” into a negative thing they call “woke.”  This is especially ironic since these same politicians love to brag about how religious or “Christian” they are–when Jesus himself urges people to “stay awake” and so does St. Paul.

In that spirit, Hildegard of Bingen tells us to “awaken from our dullness and arise vigorously toward justice.”  Notice, being dull is being asleep  to injustice for Hildegard.  White supremacy or homophobia or misogyny such as we witness on display from the Texas legislature and Texas Supreme Court this week–all that is a kind of dullness in Hildegard’s eyes.

“Expanding our ideas about love through art theology.” Theologian Angela Hummel describes her discovery of spiritual understanding through making art. TEDx Talks

How could a person who dares to call himself a follower of Christ turn the theme of waking up into something negative?  Or preach hate of people different from themselves when Jesus called for love and justice toward all?

Many people recognize the powerful role that art plays in waking people up and spreading truth in human hearts.  To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 240, 208-219.

And Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 43ff.

Banner Image: “Peace and Love.” Banksy mural in Chinatown, San Francisco. Photo by Ryan Sharp on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

How does art awaken you and enliven you on your spiritual journey?  How do you as artist do the same for others?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.

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3 thoughts on “The Role of Art in Healing, Love & Justice-Making”

  1. Avatar

    Making art takes me out of my everyday thoughts and opinions into an unlimited world of imagination and gentleness. It is a totally natural process, and I have learned that whenever two aspects of art, nature and spirituality are combined, the third automatically follows.

  2. Avatar

    Art appreciation awakens and nourishes my spiritual journey by reminding me of God’s Spirit of Love, Beauty, Creativity, and Joy within and among Us in All of God’s Diverse and ongoing ONENESS Creation, especially Sacred Mother Earth and all Her Creatures, and All of Her~His Sacred physical and non physical multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT… Each of our unique ETERNAL SOULS are Beautiful Conscious Co-Creative works of Art and parts Our Beloved SOURCE~CREATOR….

  3. Avatar

    Art, in its various and diverse forms, awakens our human capacity to expand our points of view. This expansion of differing points of view helps us to see what is unripened and ripened within our hearts, minds, souls and spirits. When I think of these words, unripened and ripened… what arises is the Fruit of the Spirit. These words ripened and unripened come from the Aramic words in scripture, which were misinterpreted as good and evil. Ponder this for a moment and it changes your point of view!

    My sense is the artists, mystics and prophets of the past and the present understand the mystery of unripened and ripened’s deeper meaning, which they creatively, imaginatively and intuitively articulate; awakening our capacity to expand our points of view. This expansion often results in expressions and manifestations of healing, love and justice.

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