Art as Weaponry
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Many times in my life as an artist, I have asked the question WHY. Why art? Why music? Why dance? Why poetry?
Finding purpose is the deep longing of the human heart. When I became a follower of Jesus, I felt like I had found my purpose… and I had. My purpose is to worship God through my life, to live according to the grace and strength that Jesus shows us through his life and his words, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And all this is true and yet it feels so broad, and sometimes vague.
Purpose… What Am I Supposed to DO???
I have found purpose in several things… being an air traffic controller and being a mom are two biggies for me. Both have clearly defined purposes.
As an air traffic controller, my purpose was to safely and efficiently get people to where they wanted to go as they careened through the air in big metal tubes. The people in the airplanes rarely give a second thought to the controllers in the towers and in the radar rooms, but we controllers take great pride in our work… and our profession garners interesting conversation at parties.
As a mom, my purpose was to keep my little bundle of joy alive, teach him a few things along the way, and hopefully do it well enough so that I am not the reason for therapy and sozos when he’s 35.
Now my 25-year career in air traffic is behind me. My son is 23, so my “mom” job is much less demanding these days, although we never stop being a mom… always praying for our children.
Defining Purpose in Art
My purpose as an artist feels so rich at times and yet so vague at others. When I paint or draw, something happens within me. It is a rich experience when I am connected to the Creator of the universe; it is deep, sublime, ethereal. I create because I must. Creativity is a gift that is given to every human regardless of your faith. Our creative God is so good and generous.
But what is the purpose of art, beyond creating for my own well-being? What is the purpose of your art, your poetry, your music, as it is released into the atmosphere? Where does its purpose fit into the command that Jesus gave us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul; and to love our neighbor as ourselves? (Matthew 22:37-38). Where does the purpose of creativity fit into the instructions that Jesus gave us in Matthew 10:8, when he said to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.”?
As a created human being, you are made in the image of your perfect Father. Perhaps, for better or for worse, you look and sometimes act like your earthly father, but you have a perfect Father too! Because of this, you have inherited from him the power and authority to create… and release it into the world.
God created something out of nothing; He spoke the universe into existence:
“And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” -Genesis 1:3
You also create something out of nothing when you create art, music, dance, or poetry. Your creation only existed in the raw materials until you paired it with your inspiration. The word inspire means “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence”. It is from the Latin, meaning “to breathe upon”. Your inspiration is the breath of God, the Spirit of God.
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” -Job 33:4
Now let’s shift gears into spiritual warfare, because we are surely in it now. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and that’s not a bad idea these days!), you already know that 2020 has been a year full of horns that have come to divide us. Raging horns intent to divide and gouge us. First COVID-19, then a horrific murder of George Floyd, followed by protests, which quickly resorted to riots, arson and destruction. The horns have divided us into categories… “vulnerable”, “white”, “black”, the list goes on and on. The horns are vile. They want us to hate one another. They want to convince us that our enemy is each other. But as humanity, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), our enemy is not one another. Our Father’s enemy is our enemy. Let’s call him what he is: the enemy is Satan and his demons.
“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” -1 Peter 5:8
But the breath of God, which is the Spirit of God, is a mighty, thunderous force that cannot be daunted nor can he be overcome. His love is the ammunition that breaks down strongholds. His love inspires us to want to know him more; his love inspires us to want to be like his son Jesus. His love breaks down the sin in our lives - lies, bad habits, judgmental attitudes, and unforgiveness to name a few.
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” -Ephesians 6:12
Consider this vision from the prophet Zechariah:
“Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. And I said, ‘What are these coming to do?’
So he said, ‘These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.’” (Zechariah 1:20-21)
What did the Lord use against the vile, divisive horns?
Not warriors, not armies, not kings.
OK wait a minute… craftsmen?? terrifying??
I have seen some art that could be described as terrifying, but I don’t usually think of artistans as terrifying warriors. Why did the Lord say this to Zechariah?
The Hebrew word for craftsman in this passage is “charash”, which translates to craftsman, artisan, engraver, artificer. An artificer is a person who is skillful or clever in devising ways of making things. In other words, a creative person. The secondary definition of charash is “skillful to destroy”, as in warriors. These craftsmen were creative and skilled.
Their creativity destroyed the enemy.
The word “terrify” comes from the Hebrew word “charad”, meaning causing the enemy to tremble, quake, move about, drive out in terror.
To “cast out” is from the Hebrew word “yadah”, meaning to shoot (arrows), to throw down, AND to give thanks, laud, praise, and to confess the name of God.
Your creativity causes the enemy to tremble, quake, and be driven out in terror. Your art, whether it is in the form of a painting, a song, a dance, or poetry, is like a skillful arrow which bypasses human defenses and touches the soft, vulnerable areas of our heart, while at the same time glorifying God. When you co-create with the Holy Spirit, your creativity heals hearts, bringing comfort and healing. It brings love and truth. It brings beauty, victory and hope. And that, my friend, is a powerful weapon.