This weekend a plurality of Christian artists are gathered together in Tennessee for an annual event known as “Hutchmoot.” Hosted by the folks at The Rabbit Room, with names inspired by Tolkien and Lewis, and the silhouette of a rabbit smoking a pipe for their logo, it all looks quite magical from the outside.
But it’s all moot (see what I did there?) if the ultimate aim isn’t to glorify God – to be a group of people of whom it can be said, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name” (Malachi 3:16, ESV)
I discovered The Rabbit Room not that long ago, and I’ve never been to a Hutchmoot – I am a newbie and still an outsider. What I know of the artists involved encourages me to hope that this is exactly the kind of thing happening at this gathering. Regretably, I have been to events where this was not the case.
Any time you get a large group of Christian artists together, you’re playing with fire, and it’s either going to be the true Fire of God, or the false fire of man. Such events are always ecumenical to one degree or another, but they can be very good. I’ve been to Christian writing conferences that were really wonderful and God-honoring. I went to a Christian arts retreat that was lovely and refreshing.
I also went to a Christian arts conference that I absolutely loved, but when I went back the next year, I listened to speaker after speaker espousing liberal theology and calling artists to push all boundaries, to the point that the potentially good theme of diversity was all but drowned out. The whole conference wasn’t bad – there was some good stuff in there. But a big red flag moment came early on, when one speaker said, almost verbatim and to vocal agreement from the gathered crowd, that in the church, the artist is more important than the pastor, and the artwork is more important than the sermon.
Artists, and perhaps especially Christian artists, are well-practiced at justifying what they do. They’re used to having to explain the value and importance of the arts, in life and in the Church, let alone the local church. I can see how it’s easy, when you’re finally in a group of people used to doing this, to again seek to justify, but to do so from an empowered position and consequently get carried away. I can see how easy it is for a listener in that situation to similarly get caught up in the heady moment. I was doing it myself until they got to the “more important than” part.
It is vital to keep the arts in their proper place, as an important and valued aspect of life, but by no means the most important. As I look in at Hutchmoot, the Art Houses, and other Christian art institutions from what often feels like very far away, I have a great hope that these things are in reality the way they look and feel to me from the outside: a celebration of art in its proper place, and a fellowship of artists who fear the Lord and esteem his name.
That is the perspective I hope this blog can also maintain.