MDV, LBBC/S, 1981; ThM, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, 1988. Married to Vida, parents of Gwendoyln, Luke, and Davida.
Heritage: David, please describe what you do to give creative expression to your artistic abilities.
DM: Thanks for asking me about the arts and the Church. I’m a painter, poet, writer, and (wannabe) sculptor. I am in the process of writing a book on the arts and contemporary Christianity.
Heritage: How do you feel about personal creative expression enhancing life and our ability to serve God?
DM: Sermons are wonderful opportunities for dramatic monologues. Scripture is filled with artistic literary genres. We know that God commanded beauty in the temple and in the priests’ fashions.
I am deeply disappointed in the typical evangelical perspective of the arts in our world. I’m beginning to understand that the antipathy towards the arts in evangelical circles goes back to the reformation but that does not excuse the banal, sentimental work that is passed off as Christian art in our culture. Art is the soul of a culture, and we have not influenced it with seminal ideas and significant skill. Instead of teaching discernment, we condemned movies; instead of being on the cutting edge of music, we waged worship wars; instead of encouraging young Christian artists, we rolled our eyes and said, “Get a real job.”
Heritage: Stained glass windows are not found in many churches now. Other than through music, in what ways can our churches today allow for expression of the creative abilities of their people to worship and share the gospel?
DM: Art must not be seen as having only value as propaganda for the gospel. Creativity is a vital part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Christians could show a strong anti-cultural understanding of what it means to be human if we stood against the pragmatism and greed that characterizes much of the drive behind the machinery of the art world. We have not engaged classical music, modern art, film, performance art, dance, graffiti, or comic book art forms in the church. Unfortunately many artistic worlds have been so twisted that we may not even want our young people involved.
At our church in Ottawa, we held a “Last Words” graffiti challenge. It included Screamo Bands (not my personal favourite), rap artists, graffiti artists, and break dancers – many non-Christians. One graffiti artist talked about how long it had been since he had been in a church. Others were extremely appreciative of the opportunity.
Heritage: What should people today learn about the creative arts to assist them in either personal or professional development?
DM: Young people interested in the world of art need help in discovering how a Biblical world view can be worked out in their particular field. For example, in depicting reality in a novel, do they write the swear words of their characters? What makes a particular work redemptive? Is life drawing wrong? How do you act ‘sinful’ as an actor without the character becoming part of who you are? What guidelines control your artistic licence as a producer? Is any kind of music inherently immoral? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered by people who seek to honour God in the arts.
David, thanks for making time to give us some of your thoughts on the arts. It is obviously a subject close to your heart.