I recently finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road. It is coming out as a movie in the fall and from what I saw of the trailer it looks amazing. It ranks right up there with my favorite novels by Ernest Hemmingway, Kurt Vonegut, Alan Paton, and Sinclair Lewis.
The Road is set in an apocalpytic setting and tells the story of a father and son on a journey to the sea. It is a classic existential story of survival in a world without hope. There seems to be no point in carrying on but they do because of some vague sense of maybe there is hope but in reality there probably isn’t. They are “good guys” in a world of “bad guys”. The author points out that they carry on because they realize that they “carry the fire” but what that means isn’t really explained. I assume that this means that they understand what it means to be human and how to act like humans do at their best. The problem is that there is no foundation for this sense of what it means to be human. Why don’t they become “bad guys” when survival is so constantly in danger? This humanness at its best really only makes sense in light of God and humans as his image bearers created to love God and love his creation as he would.
My criticism isn’t that The Road takes this secular worldview because what else would you expect from a book by a non-Christian. It is a great book and it simply and profoundly articulates the writers worldview. My issue is with Christian writers and Christian artists as a whole. Why do those of us as redeemed new creations not have a place at the table as great and profound writers and artists? We have the true foundation and right worldview that explains why we should carry on and on why we should have hope and compassion.
I don’t think the main reason is because the world hates Jesus but because we don’t write or create things that truly are worthy of being at the table. We have ghettoized our writing and art to be watered down Amish love stories and pretty lite (light) behind our couch pictures. Our music is pale copycats of what is popular.
Where are the great Christian writers who understand what it means to be human on a muddy messy earth? How many Christian writers, poets, painters, photographers, film makers and musicians are there who understand what it really means to be humans redeemed by the grace of God and who can tell compellingly what it means to live the truly human life as revealed by Jesus in a muddy messy world?
Besides being a great book, The Road, challenged me to take seriously my photography. To take pictures that capture the beauty of God’s creation. To take pictures that capture the detail of his intimate and intricate creation of all nature. To take pictures of people fearfully and wonderfully made in his image even when marred by sin, brokeness, oppression and tragedy.
It has also lead me to desire books and poems written, paintings created, films made and songs composed that touch what it means to love God and live as truly human as possible. We can’t settle for watered down fluff that betrays and demeans the God who gave himself to redeem us to himself and to make us alive to live the truly human life of loving his creation the way he would. Write with all you can to the glory of God. Paint and make photos with all you can to the glory of God. Make films with all you can to the glory of God. Compose songs that are creative and moving with all you can to the glory of God.
We can’t abandon our place at the table we have the only sure hope. We have the gospel that is the only answer to a broken world that is groaning awaiting the revelation of the sons of God. If the world rejects our work it will because the gospel is an offense to those who are perishing not because our work is watered down fluff that looks pretty but has no substance.