What comes to mind when you hear the expressions “Christian art,” or “Christian artist”? For many, the connotation is negative, conjuring images of subpar work with some Jesus messages tacked on. In Walking On Water, fiction writer Madeleine L’Engle reflects on the intersection of faith and art in a series of connected essays. This book has become a classic since its publication in the early 80s, and rightfully so. L’Engle not only redeems the idea of Christian art (a term she avoids), but she elevates it as well.
L’Engle undoubtedly values words. Not just because words are her livelihood, but because she knows the damage that can be done when words are misused. Words like “story,” “true,” “zeal,” “grace,” “human,” and “inspiration” are no longer allowed to lie lifelessly and uselessly on the page. L’Engle coaxes the artistic and existential meaning from each one. Along the way we get gems such as, “The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions,” and “Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” Perhaps the best blow she lands in the struggle for the validation of “Christian art” is, “If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.” In this statement she indicts both the world that would marginalize, and the artistic Christian—“Christian” is a better noun than an adjective—who would shrink back in fear.
I highly recommend this book, which left me both shattered and reflective multiple times, putting words to things I’ve felt, but never been able to speak. L’Engle speaks for the artist that lives in all of us; calling it out like Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb.
Please Note: This book was gifted as a part of the Blogging for Books Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.