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Art and Evangelism

Marilynne Robinson is an American author whose writing has carried subtle Christian messages and found resonance among wider circles, most recently a review in the New Yorker magazine. Allison Backhous has a recent piece in ThinkChristian.net considering her approach to creativity and the impact it can have on society.

This leads her to a question, can art be both true and evangelistic?

But what works in Robinson’s prose, I think, is that she herself is deeply enamored with the truth and beauty of Christianity. That she loves our creeds, our confessions, that she studies and prays and looks at the world in the exact same way that her characters do. It is a matter of vision, and I wonder what it would do for Christian art, and Christian responses to art, for us to daily relearn our love for God.

I believe that Robinson’s work is not a platform for the Gospel – art, and literature, is never a platform for a message. Words and images embody the truths that we believe, and truth often comes to us in image, line and story. But I do believe that Robinson’s work is worth loving because it brings its readers to see what, and Whom, she loves. That it, to paraphrase Greg Wolfe, evokes meaning rather than prescribing it.

And, in reading her work, may we see how O’Connell sees. May our own sight for what is good, true and beautiful be deepened, both for ourselves and for others.

(The review in The New Yorker provides a sampling of Robinson’s prose, as well as description from a self-described “paid-up atheist” about its ability to stir spiritual longing within him)

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