On the Slant Series

In her poem Poetics of FaithDenise Levertov writes, ” ‘Straight to the point’/ can ricochet/ unconvincing.'” Many attempts by Christians to convey truth in a direct, head-on fashion has this ‘ricochet’ effect. The message may be dead center, but the manner and mode may be entirely unconvincing–dead in spirit.

This monthly series celebrates voices whose message is a bit off-center. Poets, artists, musicians, and novelists often have more imaginative and compelling ways of exploring divine truth than preachers and pastors. See Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Emily Dickinson’s infamous quote (revived by Eugene Peterson) provides better counsel for Christians seeking to convey the truth of the Gospel: ‘Tell the truth/but tell it slant.’

Vincent Van Gogh, 'Poet's Garden'   Public domain via wikipaintings.org

Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Poet’s Garden’
Public domain via wikipaintings.org

Christianity is a faith that trains us to see (read John 9), so I’ll feature an artist each month that helps me see the truth of the Gospel better. I will review one creative work–a book, poem, song, album, or painting–that communicates a compelling truth because of its in-directness. I’ll review a work based on its aim to convey truth rather than evaluating its craftsmanship and technique (which I’m not trained to do anyway). Think contemplation, not criticism.

My interpretations of a given work may not be impressions that were intended by an author or artist. That doesn’t bother me at all. Good artists know that their creations hold dimensions of truth that they cannot envision during a work’s creation. As Dorothy Sayers said, artists are servants who ‘serve the work.’ And good artists who serve the work deserve an attentive meditative audience.

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