Azotus Art House: Art & Theology for Everyone
The immediate response to any talent is “oh you could sell that,” rendering the scope of that art short-lived. So it is with theology as well. Commercialization and the closely linked “commoditization” of spiritual practice and worse, the vibrant biblical witness to Jesus and instructions to the infant Church by Apostles, has made mute or inaccessible much of that clear and vibrant message.
We are sick of being sold, sold sold. Talking heads blathering away with new deals, quick fixes and new angles aimed at garnering our attention and inevitably pilfering our wallets.
So chuck it all. It’s actually good news for both Art and Theology. Take the economic element away entirely and you have freedom to create and explore — which is what you were created to do.
We are all Theologians: we all “students of God,” even though who disbelieve. They have faith that there is no God and have a certain set of assumptions aligned with that which cannot be scientifically proven at all. They are based on a sort of faith.
I find that many an atheist has not studied God at all, but rather “Religion” and that their critique of it is often accurate and sometimes even echoed in scripture (from both Testaments) as God is not very pleased with “Religion” either. The Old Testament prophets railed against it:
“I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I [a]delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. (Amos 5:21-23)
Normally he religious would have determined who Jesus was, but it was clear they were blind spiritually. So Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say I am?” And this is what defined them, and what defines us — who Jesus is, and who we are in relation to Him.
Now in our day, the new challenge is that we are to find our “identity” in ourselves, in our sexuality and work from that. This will eventually determine Who Jesus is too.
This is one more (in a long line of) “anthro-pocentric views of reality that places humanity as the Center.
But I have been to the Center and it is not Us.
Never was us, isn’t Us now; never will be Us.
And even common sense shows this, for ask yourself the simple question: if we are the Center, then which Us?
Isn’t that where the real mess starts: the bloodshed, the wars, racism, hate, greed, usury, idolatry, human traffiking, etc… Isn’t that the root if it all: US-ism?
And where – anywhere – in the Gospels do you see anyone deriving their identity from their own sexuality?
Are you not far more than just that? Are you not created in the imago dei (image of God)? And if God is the Creator with the uncanny ability to create living art, are we not called to reflect that same creativity?
If we are all Theologians then we are all Artists. Forget the exclusive claim that it is only art if it can be sold and do the opposite. Don’t sell it – create it as reflective gestures of the divine nature. Choose art forms that are inexpensive so you can give away your art making it meaningful in love. You will be amazed are how it frees up your creativity once you stop trying to make it “for sale” and make it an expression of your connection to God, to people and to Creation.
This is one of the reasons why the future Azotus Art House (now mobile in parks and in Tent Cities..it is a few years down the road) works so well with Homeless folk. It calls out the God given creativity and empowers them to refashion materials of creation into meaningful art.
St. Paul did not present us with anything like a corporate model for the Church. It was organic -a living person made up of various organs with Christ being the living brain, or head. Every organ in the body was/is essential to life and must work in concert with all others.
Otis Moss III writes of Gospel and the coordination of the Body being like open source or the blues:
The first thing that digital culture offers that also flows out of the Blues sensibility is what is known as an open source community. It reflects what I like about Google. I’m an Apple fan, but I really like the way Google flows. I just like the way they do things. “Open source” means you can create a program and others can add to that program. (Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair p. 52)
Later he notes that everyone in Jazz get a solo.there is that element of improv. Moss is speaking a lot in terms of the preacher in interaction with the congregation in classic Black churches in sermon-response — but think it extends wider to body-life where is a certain order (as there is in music, but also improvisation/ The analogy of moving from closed Apple platform to “open source” is a good one too.
At my church in Oakland, things are openly “dialogical” —simply meaning they are grounded in conversation prior to the sermon, carried through within the sermon and extend through conversations throughout the week. In this they are the simple and clean embodiment of what I was calling for 14 years ago in my article “Beyond Postmodernism” in a the need to become “Relationals” in the face of an age of utter de-personalization and meaninglessness.
I am happy to report I had nothing to do with it. I simply came and joined a work-in-progress.
None of this is rocket science. You do not need to over-think it or get a degree. Use your brain and your artistic abilities to do good theology and art. Seek truth at any cost and usually if it dovetails with love easily you are on the right track. Think of art as love/gift, not commodity. Would you really want to produce pallets full? Band with other artists and encourage each other (don’t compete – that’s ego and ruins art).
Have fun and listen to the Holy Spirit and be directed in your art and theology. Did you know that the greatest artist’s of all time – throughout the centuries did this?