Creative People

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see.

Genesis 1:1 MSG

The first thing we learn about God: he is creative. I mean, really creative. He does not settle for the creation of one flower, but has myriads of flowers and kinds of flowers, and then there is so much more.

We also learn later that God is in the preservation business. He holds everything together.

We then learn that we as humans have two assignments mirroring God: to steward and preserve God creation, and to further it. We are to be stewards and co-creators.

Why is it that creative people are so loathed in the church, then?

Granted, there are many artists and musicians in the church–probably more musicians than artists in general. But let’s have a look at whether they are creative.

Creativity is the means to turn chaos into order. Creatives live at the fringe of the known and give it Gestalt, make it known, bring order to it, and thus shape our view of the world.

Conservatives, non-creatives take the known and shape the unknown to fit into the known concepts and models, or, more probably, shun the unknown altogether.

Let’s have a look at worship music: usually, worship musicians in churches take music genres that have been invented and have become somewhat mainstream and old-fashioned, slap some bible text on a melody that is middle-of-the-road. If the music is too experimental, maybe thinking out of the box of a genre, they will not be accepted in their role.

Why is that? I think it is because of the assigned function of worship music in church. They are to lead people into the throne room of God, and the music is the means to do that. If that music would make the people in the congregation uncomfortable, they would not experience the peace associated with an encounter of God, and therefore doubt the experience.

Just think of the war it took until drums and electrical guitars where accepted in churches.

Younger generations of Christians listen to more modern versions of music because that is what they are accustomed too, what is accepted in mainstream, but christianized, and therefore somewhat tolerated.

The same happens with teaching. We are great stewards of doctrine, as much as we might hate the word in certain circles.

But creativity is not made to help people feel comfortable and at peace. That is akin to looking at art as decoration. It is a utilitarian view of creativity. Worship music has become a tool, and teaching as well.

There is a place for that: creative stuff has to become part of the known space, as it is made to make us see. We see the world the way artists painted it for the last few hundred years, as they have shaped our way of viewing, and it has proliferated into advertisement, web design, movie making etc.

But there is also a place for contemporary art, challenging our view of the world. This is what Adam did when he named every thing that God had created. This is what they did when they suddenly were forced to live outside paradise. This is what the prophets did when they announced a new thing. This is what Paul did when he shaped our theology.

We are to subdue the world. The world always consists of what we know and much more. Stewards never get to the “and much more”, apart from forcing it to look like the “what we know”. Granted, there might be very slow progress, because even stewards can and do gradually adapt to life circumstances.

It is a pity that the church, though supposed to be the most creative place in the world, has become the most conservative force around.

Creative people are impossible to manage. Administrative, repetitive, and managerial tasks kill them, but they thrive in problem solving. Given restraints, they break free of the known and propose solutions outside the box.

Creatives tend to be difficile. Their creativity can easily be crushed, and it usually is. This starts in school, if not earlier. Our school system is built to crunch out replaceable factory workers, in a time when factories are vanishing at an ever more rapid pace.

Our churches are designed to churn out good, obedient Christians, taking very serious the stewarding part of our assignment.

We lose our creativity and therefore half of our assignment to mirror God’s traits. We either integrate creative people and have them die a slow death, until they become disillusioned, disheartened, discouraged, bland member of the crowd that have given up and lost all their self-assurance and self-worth, and usually have conducted some sort of illness like cancer, or they run.

The same happens in companies. Creative people are not useful at the bottom of any hierarchy, as those bottom levels are called to do what they are told.

Creative people live in two places: at the top of hierarchies, and outside of hierarchies.

When we look at prophets in the old testament, we see exactly that. Those prophets either where accepted and belonged to the top, building the triangle of power in Israel between king, priest, and prophet, or the lived in the desert in opposition to the power structures. Think of Elijah or John the Baptist. And still, they were the ones that brought the word of God.

We do know of many prophets within the power structures that were false prophets, catering to the power structures more than bringing the word of God. But we hardly know of any false prophet outside of power structures.

We need both the stewards and the creatives. Both are in the will of God, and when they are truly in the will of God, they work together, as difficult and uncomfortable as that is.

Interestingly enough, Jesus endorsed John the Baptist, the fringe person, the creative, while the only ones he truly confronted where the mere stewards of the law.

The church has lost its creative power by suppressing and choking its creative people. It is just sad.