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Bret Lott knows a thing or two about writing. He’s a New York Times bestselling author with an Oprah Book Club selection under his belt. He’s been the editor and director The Southern Review at LSU, and he currently teaches at College of Charleston as a professor of English. He is also by his own admission, “about the squarest person you will meet” (15).An artist is both a creator and citizen in a worship relationship to God, and that is the primary basis for how we should relate to the world around us.
Lott is also a Christian, and the intersection of his writer and faith identities is the subject of his book Letters and Life, which Crossway has graciously made available free to Christ and Pop Culture members. The first part of the book, “Letters,” offers five meditative essays full of insights into the life of being a writer as well as a faithful Christian. The second part, “Life,” is an extended memoir in much the same vein as the previous section.
The second essay, “The Artist and The City,” opens with two questions with which Lott has had to reckon (33):
As he begins sketching out his answer to these questions, Lott lays the following foundation:
Here is our truest beginning point of an understanding of the creation of art by the Christian: the created world has a moral order to which we must submit, and through that submission and only through that submission will harmony and beauty and truth even begin to be approached by us who profess to practice art. Further, we do not commit art in a vacuum but are a part of society—of humanity—at large, and therefore we indeed have a role in that society, a role that can and will contribute to the harmonization of human activity at large. (34)
As understood by Lott, “Art as practiced by believers began as an act of harmony between God and man” (34). To ground and explain this further, he refers to the story of Bezalel in Exodus 31. This passage incorporates those of us involved in all kinds of arts. After unpacking Bezalel’s role in setting up the tabernacle, Lott explains:
But the importance of Bezalel, and so to understanding our role as artists under God, cannot be underestimated: under his watch were created sculpture, tapestry, woodcarving, jewelry, clothing, metalwork, even architecture, and all of it done without signing a name to a single piece of it, all of it done knowing full well he wouldn’t even be allowed to participate in its use once he and all the artists involved completed their creations, and all of it done in creation of the public square itself, this place where God was to be worshiped and from which his order issued. (37-38)
According to Lott, an artist is both a creator and citizen in a worship relationship to God, and that is the primary basis for how we should relate to the world around us. We are creations of the Creator, so we create in harmony with God’s creation.
These rich truths come from just one essay in Letters and Life. Lott’s work is a worthy read for anyone involved in the arts at the level of creation or enjoyment, which describes nearly everyone. We are consumers and creators of our culture, and books like Letters and Life help us all think more deeply about how to faithfully live in such roles while also claiming the name of Christ.
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