Creativity and Religious Liberty

A few years ago, I was working in the creative office of my alma mater, and I heard our creative director say something that struck me. “You know that they can fire us, right?” He was referring to the business we had “hired” to produce a recent project.

We were in the middle of a highly detailed project involving a few different groups of people at a production house. Our organization and this production house had worked together for years on various projects and had built a great relationship, but this particular project was pushing everyone and was something new for all of us. The production house was trying to figure out if this project was something they could actually execute, and we were trying to make sure they could perform at the level we desired. Some frustration ensued during the process, but we were able to walk through the project without any major issues. But what our creative director said in that moment always stuck with me.

We could be fired as a creative client. This production house was not required to keep working with us, regardless of the project.

If they found us to be overly difficult to work with, if the project did not align with their values as a company, or if they just didn’t want to work on this particular project for some stated reason, they could in fact “fire” us as a partner and decide that they were not the best fit for this particular project. They would lose the business, but saying “no” in design is a cherished value in the creative community. A business or designer is encouraged to do what is best for the client but also for themselves. That sometimes means turning down good paying work in order to protect the business. This assumption of creative liberty is in everyone’s best interest because it allows both parties to find the best fit to see a project through and does not force them to work on a project that they do not want to work on.

This freedom possessed by the production house is a similar freedom that all creatives have to accept or turn down work. But this freedom is often overlooked in today’s conversations about religious liberty and creativity. We read of cake bakers and photographers being taken to court over refusing to use their creativity to participate in a same-sex ceremony or an artist who refuses to perform a concert in a certain state based on legislation that violates his or her values. Why is it that so many are completely against an artist using their creative and religious freedom to refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding, but so many celebrate the artist that refuses, on principle, to perform in a state in which there is legislation that goes against their deeply held beliefs?

Scripture teaches us that God created each man and woman in his image (Gen. 1:27) and created us with certain inalienable rights. As creator, God used his creative abilities to create everything and gave us a similar ability to take what he has created and to create things of our own. Our creative abilities are God-given and are designed to be used in glorifying the true and original Creator.

Along with these creative gifts, we were also given the ability to worship and a freedom of conscience by which we could choose to glorify and honor God or to glorify and honor ourselves. We know how that choice ended up for mankind (Gen. 3). We chose to glorify and honor ourselves instead of God.

These artistic freedoms granted by God are central to who we are as his creation. All people have dignity and worth. All people have the ability to choose right and wrong. And all people are accountable for their actions and their stewardship of the gifts they have been given.

As a creative who is also a Christian, I believe that all people have the right to live out their beliefs through their actions in all aspects of their life, especially in their vocation as creatives. Creativity is not just putting out a product or offering a service to someone. When one creates, we put our heart, mind, and soul into what we create. Just like a great writer is apart of their work or a sculptor puts his mark on his creation, we give ourselves to what we create and it will always bear part of who we are. This is why creatives care so much about their work and how it is used or portrayed.

Every decision that we as humans make is informed by our understanding of ourselves, the universe, and our concept of God. Just as the creative who decides they, in good conscience, cannot use their creative gifts to serve a same-sex wedding, I also believe that a creative should not be forced to violate their deeply held beliefs to perform in an arena in any place that they do not want or feel comfortable. To label some actions discriminatory while at the same time giving other artists freedom of conscience to not perform in venues for popular causes that hit at a politically convenient time, is nothing less than hypocrisy. It shows, sadly, that religious liberty and freedom of conscience in America are really about what’s popular; instead of giving space for disagreement. Sadly, opponents of religious liberty are living by a maxim that they only apply to themselves.

Creative freedom and liberty cannot only apply to the popular positions or stances on cultural issues. This freedom and liberty must also apply to minorities whose positions might seem completely off base to the majority. My position on same-sex relationships and ceremonies might not be popular, but why should I be forced to violate my personally held beliefs if others are able to exercise their beliefs in their public vocations? Others might be celebrated by society, but both sides have the same rights and freedoms because every person is given worth and dignity.

Religious liberty is a right given to each person by God and must be used responsibly (Matt. 22:37-29). These are complicated issues, but even the complicated issues and variables surrounding certain cases can be worked out in public and accommodations for all beliefs can be made in a pluralistic society.

I believe that religious liberty applies to all people of all faiths or no faith at all because I believe that all people are created in the image of God and no government or societal pressure should be able to coerce someone to violate their deepest held beliefs.

 


This post originally appeared at Canon and Culture.

Creativity and the glory of God

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:26

Creativity is not a gift just for artists or for visual learners. The gift of creativity is used in almost every vocation. From plumbing to graphic design, we each use creativity to solve complex problems or to express truth in new and interesting ways. While gifting varies, all people possess some level of creativity. And if all people are able to create, where did this good gift come from? It is merely a random trait that all humans share or does it come from something deeper and is it meant to point us to some even more glorious?

The foundation of creativity

The book of Genesis is the story of the creation of the world and everything in it. In Genesis 1-2, we read how God, in all of his wonder and glory, created the entire world and then created humankind. God created humans differently from the rest of creation. The Scriptures tell us that God created the heavens and the earth, the waters and the land, and then created humans separately from and to rule over all of creation. Verse 26 tells us that we are created by God in God’s image and are to reflect that image in all we do. No other part of creation, including the beasts of the field, birds of the sky, and fish in the sea, were created like humans. God endowed each of us with certain faculties, responsibilities, abilities, and gifts.

Being made in the image of God, we are bestowed the ability to create in ways similar to the way God creates. And yet, because we are not God, we create in a different way, a way that doesn’t compete with God’s creative powers, but, in some ways, extends those to the raw materials he’s given us in creation.

Creativity is at the core of what it means to be human. Creativity is a distinct gift given to us so we can reflect the nature and creativity of our Creator. We don’t create in the same ways that God creates because we can only create things from what has already been created. God created everything that we have ever seen or know from nothing, but we create things with the colors, patterns, textures, emotions, visions, and thoughts that God has already given to us. Nothing that we create is truly original. This is a reminder that we are God’s creation and workmanship. Each time we create we point back to the One by whom and through whom all things were created.

Creativity is hard

Later in Genesis 3, we read of the fall of humanity, when sin entered the world. God’s creation rebelled against him, ushering sin and death into the world. All work became difficult and laborious. The ground, in many ways, fights back. Sin invades the creative process. Creativity is now exhausting and time-consuming. Often we make mistakes in design and creativity and have deep disagreements on how best to communicate a message. Still, though sin entered our work and made it difficult, our work and the abilities given to us were not completely crushed by the Fall. God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” is still the task assigned to us as his image bearers. This responsibility was not given to anything other part creation. As image bearers, this calling is ours to own. That task and responsibility is to reflect the glory of God in our work and through our gifts of creativity.

When we design or create, we are doing the hard and often tedious work of taking the things of creation given to us and expressing them in new and interesting ways that can engage the mind and the heart. Because the work of creativity is much more than drawings on a computer, some paint on a canvas, or an intricate problem to solve, we should value the work of creativity and design. This work is unique to us as God’s image bearers and has an intrinsic value.

Our creativity is not a vain task but something given to us to reflect the glory of our creator God in all of his beauty and mystery. Our creativity employs God-given emotions, thoughts and desires. The beautiful things we create can communicate truth in ways that no other creature can. Good design engages the mind and help us to communicate with others. Good design evokes emotions and draws out desires that lie deep in the heart of every soul. Good design helps us us recall forgotten and buried memories.

Because of the fall, creativity isn’t always an easy task but a worthy one. In this good work, we can show the glory of the One who has created all things. Through our creativity and design, we seek to take what is in our mind’s eye and make it a reality for all to see and share.

Creativity and design can bring deep joy and wonder but it is not meant to fully satisfy those longings. God’s glory should be at the center of all creativity as we reflect him through the things that we create. Our hearts will never truly be satisfied in any work of our hands or minds, but only once they rest in the One who created each of us. Creativity is a medium through which God has given us to show the truths of the universe and to reflect the truth of who God is and what he has done. How we use this medium is important and is something that we should seek to steward well. We create because we are made in the image of the one who created everything.