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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beauty Will Save the World???

by Dina Sleiman

One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

The quote "Beauty will save the world," is attributed to Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Is this true? And if so, what does it mean for us as Christians? I’ve really been delving into the concepts of art and beauty lately. They are primary ways I connect to God, one might say to the divine. I believe that this generation is not merely looking for a logical, rational faith with sound systematic theology, but rather for beauty and wonder and relationship with the creator of the universe.

Just look at the popularity of flash mobs lately. Does anyone watch those videos of uplifting spiritual songs and dances and say, “Why are you trying to shove your religion down our throats”? Not that I’ve heard of. Do the performers get accused of being close-minded or judgmental. I think not. Art has a way of transcending our preconceptions and going straight to the heart. It’s the perfect means of introducing the world to the beauty of God.

On Saturday I recommended a novel which accomplishes just that called The Oppposite of Art. And I also mentioned two books released last year with the same title as the Dostoevsky quote, Beauty Will Save the World. The version by Professor Gregory Wolfe is a sort of treatise on Christianity and the humanities. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet. But since it recently came out on kindle, I do hope to check it out soon.

The one I have read is Beauty Will Save the World is by Pastor Brian Zhand. He takes more of a theological approach, asserting that Christians have somehow managed to get things all wrong. That Christianity was never meant to be about power and politics but about beauty and love. He begins the book with the story of a Russian prince from a thousand years ago who was looking for a new religion for his people. The prince sent envoys to study other religions of the world. Here is the report he received about Christianity in Constantinople.

Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty.

And so Prince Vladimer adopted Christianity as the new religion of Russia. This is the sort of Christianity that draws people to it like a magnet. Where is that Christianity today? All too often I think it is missing. But thank goodness, it seems to be on the rise.

Zhand challenges the reader to be a prophetic people ushering the kingdom of God here on earth even now. And to do so largely by living according to the Beatitudes, that very inconvenient and impractical sermon of Jesus’ that we would probably rather brush under the table.

So I spent the last few weeks immersed in a novel about art and a theological book about beauty, but that wasn’t all. I also read Heart of an Artist by Worship Leader Rory Noland. This book helped me to better understand myself as an artist. Both my weaknesses and my strengths. Too often artists are looked down upon in Christianity. Like the Beatitudes, we are viewed as impractical and inconvenient. Volatile people. But God made artists with a distinctive sensitivity to bring special messages to His people. To bring the wonders of the spiritual universe just a bit closer to our grasp through song, dance, paintings, poetry, etc… To bring a little piece of heaven here to earth.

Will beauty save the world? Not beauty for beauty’s sake. But beauty that gently woos people to the savior of the world. That sort of beauty most certainly will. Whether you consider yourself an “artist” or not, let’s all challenge ourselves to be conduits of beauty. To be a prophetic people bringing beautiful glimpses of heaven to earth. To do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Not shoving our morals and theologies down people’s throats. Rather introducing to them to the unparalleled wonder of our savior. Let’s do so in our writing, in our art, and in our lives. 

What beautiful things have touched you lately? What draws you closer to God? How can you be a conduit for beauty?

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Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing has just released. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/
 

8 comments:

  1. Lovely post, Dina. I definitely need to pick up those books. Lately, I've been working to purposefully increase my appreciation of beauty and joy. God's given me so much, yet I easily ignore His gifts to focus on my own worries.

    Right now, my nectarine tree is in bloom. The blossoms are the most gorgeous shade of hot salmony pink. If I could paint the tree, I would. Instead, I'm just trying to be grateful.

    So many gifts of God's beauty abound in my life--my kids' laughter, the delicate scent of the violas I just planted, the first taste of my mug of good tea with milk--and I need to thank God for creating all of them and sharing them with me.

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  2. I love this, Dina. I agree with the quote about Christianity never being intended for power and politics, but for beauty and love. Sin sucked the beauty and love OUT of the world, it makes sense that Christianity would put beauty and love back!

    Now, I will try to find beauty in and be thankful for the foot of fresh snow we've got. : )

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  3. Thanks for the inspiring post, Dina.

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  4. Hi everyone. Glad you were all inspired. This has been a great month of refueling for me after that massive writing spree I just had.

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  5. Oooh, I need to get those books.

    Yesterday it rained. Nasty thunderstorm. Today the sky is bright, is blue, is happy. Even though the wind is blowing, there's a sense of life and joy outside that wasn't there yesterday.

    Storms don't last forever. While there are often consequences (a few downed branches in my backyard), I don't mind the rain because of beauty afterward.

    So nice to be outside . . .

    I think I'll go get my haircut.

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  6. Love all the beautiful, joyful reflections.

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  7. Dina, I left a comment yesterday, but for some reason it disappeared. Luckily for you, I can't recreate it. ;-)

    Back when we were talking about the one-word concept, I chose "aware". In that word, there is so much potential for seeing, feeling and absorbing God's beauty.

    I love this post so much.

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  8. I know the Eastern Orthodox like the the Roman Catholic church has departed far from the true Gospel, yet somehow the more I study the Byzantines the more I think they had a wonderful and magnificent civilisation the death of which is truly lamentable.

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