Mount Hermon Report 2008, Part 6

CSFF’ers at Mount HermonBefore I continue with my MH report, I should mention that I have put up a challenge over at Spec Faith. Not an official, contest-type challenge. Just a call for renewed grassroots involvement by fantasy and sci fi fans to let readers know there are Christian works in their genre.

In conjunction with the announcement, here is a picture of four of us CSFF’ers at Mount Hermon. On the left is Mike Lynch and on the right Mark Goodyear. Merrie Destefano is in the front, and, well, you know me already. As I recall, we took this picture after a breakfast get-together for speculative fiction writers. Unfortunately, most of the others had left by the time any of us thought about taking pictures.

On to the report.

Saturday afternoon the advance manuscripts were available. I’m never in a big hurry to see the ones I send because I’m not asking for a critique and I generally have an idea what editors might or might not be inclined to consider my work.

I had sent one manuscript to Shannon Hill, editor with WaterBrook, but she was ill and unable to attend the conference. That meant for the fifth straight year, one of my manuscripts was farmed out elsewhere. Julee Schwarzenburg (Multnomah) was reading manuscripts addressed to Shannon, but Julee had already rejected mine two years ago. So no suspense there. The other was highly improbable, so again, no high expectation and no surprise when the editor wasn’t interested.

On to the workshops. In the first slot after lunch, I attended Andy McGuire’s (Moody) “Christianity vs the Arts: What Is Christian Art?” seminar.

Andy started with a definition of art, one with which I agree, but one that would not be universally accepted, I don’t think. He connected art with beauty and truth. But I can think of any number of acclaimed art works that make no attempt to be beautiful—and succeed quite well in not accomplishing it! Yet they are classics, by renowned artists.

Next Andy gave “a case for art,” largely based on Scripture. At that point, I suspect he was preaching to the choir, and he probably thought so as well, because he didn’t belabor the points. He then asked the question, Does the evangelical community believe in the value of art? He gave a yes/no answer and some rationale for the negative. Next he briefly explored the history of Christianity and the arts and asked, What happened? In other words, why aren’t Christians still leading the art parade?

In 2006 Andy had done a similar workshop, (I purchased the CD) and back then I took issue at this point with some of his ideas. This time, as I recall, his main point was that Christianity became utilitarian. Beauty doesn’t “serve the cause of Christ” so we shouldn’t waste the precious time we have. I can see that view. Not to mention that society at large became pragmatic—it’s all about “what works.” If Christians believe we are to make disciples, then we should focus on “what works.” Not that I agree, mind you. I actually see a lot of problems with a pragmatic philosophy, but that’s for later.

To be honest with you, the seminar, from this point on, became a discussion, a quite good one, but I didn’t take notes (too busy thinking up questions and processing answers). I should have sat down immediately afterward and scribbled out what I came away with.

I did jot down a few questions on the side that I wanted to ask, and I think I did. First was, Don’t you think God created beauty to reflect Him – and therefore beauty is “utilitarian”?

Next, Isn’t experiencing truth utilitarian?

From these two, I can only surmise that Andy said something about art not needing to have a purpose outside itself.

At some point he said something against the “bait and switch” approach to art—pulling in readers with the promise of a good story only to use the opportunity to preach the gospel. I followed up with a question about symbolism, asking if he considered its use as part of the “bait and switch” technique. He said no.

There was lots of participation and good, good questions. I would love to have been sitting in a circle and having a real discussion with those folks for another hour or more. It’s the kind of thing we enjoy here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, only in person!

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