Story 2014 (@storychicago) left me, a Christian creative, feeling perhaps this Story has lost its soul. The place that Story was to me no longer seems to exist.
In 2011, I attended Story and was inspired by other successful Christian artists, along with a few secular artists. This time, I doubt any speaker was Christian on the first day of presentations. One dropped the F-bomb a few times, and another questioned the meaning of life with no solid answers. Others gave secular reasons on why we create. I kept waiting for someone to present the Christian worldview in the creative process, aching to see connection between faith and art. I sat there, silently screaming, “We create because we’re created in the image of God—the ultimate Creator!” It is the drive that yearns in the heart of the Christian artist.
Sitting in Story, my spirit longed to hear that connection—that as created beings, we reflect the Creator’s image through storytelling. The only time God was mentioned the second day, before lunch, was when Josh Boone, the director of The Fault in Our Stars, mocked his born-again Christian parents in how they tried to keep him from reading Stephen King novels. This is so stereotypical: let’s portray Christians as out-of-touch, overprotective or shallow.
The one place where Cristian creatives come for inspiration, we hear this typecast, and it feels like a slap in the face—again. This is not the authentic Christian. This is not the true story of an artist, submitted to God, humbly, respectively and honestly. My fear is that even you, who read this, will consider me to be one of those Christians who is viewed as bigoted, close-minded, old-fashioned, etc. The authentic Christian creative has been cast aside—again—as the Church has done since the Reformation, overlooking Christian artists, not considering art as part of the expression of Christ.
One speaker said now that he’s successful in Hollywood, he couldn’t be happier, as if our personal happiness is the ultimate goal. This is an American cultural ideal, but not one Christ specifically told us to be our primary motivation. Yes, He wants us to live life abundantly, but that means in the fulness of what He desires for us, to partner with Him in restoring creation to its original design.
I bite my lip to hold back tears at what seems lost to me once more. I glance at the audience… am I the only one who senses that Story Chicago has lost its soul? How is this event any different from the secular worldview that leaves me empty? For a Christian creative, the narrative of the Christian worldview is what satisfies. It’s the story of redemption.
No longer do I care to sit and listen to humanism. Yes, I care about humanity, just as God does when He invited us into relationship with Him. But to sit here and listen to the shallowness of a naturalistic worldview, focusing on physical pleasures, as an example, is meaningless. It is like opening a beautifully wrapped present just to find nothing but a box with stagnant air inside.
How will the Christian creative then emerge into this secular culture with a different message while working alongside others of varying beliefs? This is what needs to be explained at an event like Story. This is what people of faith have a difficult time trying to do without compromising their morals. The place where I finally felt like faith and the arts could combine has now become like all other areas of Western civilization, and the Christian artist is left behind.
We are called to bring heaven to earth. Heaven is full of untold stories, imaginings unseen, mysteries yet to be discovered that Christian artists can tap into; and wouldn’t it be amazing to see our call as storytellers to do that very thing—bring heaven to earth through art!
As the Body of Christ, the collaborations could be awesome, symbolizing the unity of working parts functioning together as a whole expression of who we are—sons and daughters of the living God, the one who invites us into His story. That is the most exciting place to be, why we were created, and why we’re here. Art that glorifies man will never fully quench the thirst of our souls like art that glorifies God. We can pray for heavenly inspiration, thy Kingdom come, that will blow away the best man has to offer because of a collaboration with the one and only ultimate Creator.
Story 2014 did end with two presenters talking about their faith and their creative professions, which made me feel better. They could have done this a lot earlier instead of leaving at the end, like it was an afterthought. Will Story 2015 bring its soul back, offering the Christian creative inspiration to bring heaven to earth? I pray that it does, because where else can we go?