Thankful for "A Holy Joy"
I was delighted to read the article "A Holy Joy" by Mark Judge about the NEA Heritage Award celebration at the Strathmore Music Center. As a National Council member for the last six years, I have seen these small miracles regularly in the proceedings of the endowment, and the story of the turnaround of the NEA itself is miraculous, made possible by the visionary and faithful leadership of Dana Gioia, a former business executive and a nationally recognized poet.
As Judge noted, the arts can surprise us by giving us a glimpse into the transcendent: This influence into the broader culture is precisely why the church needs to continue to encourage her congregants to preserve, create, and celebrate culture. Instead of merely complaining about or boycotting art, we need to create art that reflects our values and faith, undergirding freedom and commonwealth, the twin engines of democracy. Many times, listening to the grant reports of the NEA's remarkable staff—experts in music, literature, visual arts, media, dance, and education—I have come away with a renewed conviction that the church could very well lead in the conversation on diversity, excellence, and transcendent art. But the reality is that the church seldom celebrates her own heritage, honors her artists, or gives public acknowledgement of her legacy. I hope that this article will encourage all readers to experience the arts in their own local arenas and, most important, recognize and champion the artists in their own congregations. Perhaps we can even go further and celebrate artists outside our faith perspective, to give recognition to the common-grace splendor of our God, who is himself an artist.
New York, N.Y.
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