Discipleship as Art

Attempting to live like Jesus requires art, not science. – When One Religion Isn't Enough, pg. 4. Duane R. Bidwell

This is a book I picked up while on retreat last July, and this sentence comes from the introduction.

So often it seems that people look for the right rules to follow, or rules to keep them in line, or rules to affirm their own prejudices. For too long, people and clergy espoused a set of rules that, if followed, would ensure a person would get to heaven and keep society prim and proper. For too long, people and clergy espoused a set of rules that would ensure their vision of religion, society, and God were enforced. The Puritans were awfully good at the first (think about requirements for church attendance or enforced behaviors which, if not followed, led to public punishments, or worse). The Southern Baptist denomination was established to uphold the institution of slavery and segregation.

And on and on it goes with rules being created to uphold systems of power and to disenfranchise and shun the Other. Think about how churches have treated, and continue to treat, minorities, gays and lesbians, transgendered, inter-racial marriages, women in general and in leadership in particular.

On my Twitter feed recently, someone asked, “Where does the idea of biblical inerrancy come from?” There were a lot of answers, but I replied, “I'm guessing it probably started when the first guy said, 'The Bible clearly says' and then went looking for proof-texts to shore up his position.”

But while rules are necessary in some (many?) cases, following Jesus, discipleship, is less about rules, or the science of the matter, and more about art, because art can capture our imagination.

Art allows us to imagine the infant Jesus at Mary's breast. Art allows us to imagine Joseph playing peek-a-boo with toddler Jesus. Art allows us to imagine who is our neighbor. Art allows us to imagine finding an empty tomb. Art allows us to imagine Jesus asking us, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”

The law (rules) Jesus lived by was twofold: Love God, love neighbor. In his life he constantly looked for ways in which those two laws could be lived out.

I watched a Safe Church module yesterday in which Presiding Bishop Curry quoted Ab. Desmond Tutu: “Without us, God won't. Without God, we can't. Together we can.”

In loving God and loving neighbor there is a lot of room for artistic imagination. In our attempt to live like Jesus, may we put our artistic imaginations to use as we bring the Church to the world around us.



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