Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Reviewing via film a “documentary poem” about creativity and faith is a little daunting for people, like me, because I am by nature a very straightforward, no-nonsense, and practical kind of person. Not that I didn’t expect to learn a few new things or find something that would be useful to friends whom I consider “creative”—but I did not anticipate the extent to which “Made as Makers” would expand my own understanding of faith. I thought that a film about creativity would be about bringing artistic elements into our worship, not about using creativity to approach our faith and our understanding of God. Since the latter is true (though not to the exclusion of the former), I found that I really did have a bit to say about this film. As Callid Keefe-Perry says, “I think that every single person has something to add to the conversation where God is concerned because I think that God is concerned with every single person.”
In “Made as Makers,” the filmmaker interviews women, men, artists, church leaders, theologians and everyday people and records his own conversations with them about God, faith, and hope for the church. I was delighted to find that from the moment the film started, I was invited—no, pulled into—this conversation. There is no room to sit back as a detached observer, the so-called third wheel in a two-person dialogue. The opening sequences of the film begin with Callid Keefe-Perry talking to you, to me, directly. While he talks there with us there is an empty chair behind him — is it for another member of this conversation, for God, for both? By artfully leaving “space” Callid Keefe-Perry invites God and us to explore these questions with him.
Since this is a conversation that we join, not one that we observe from a distance, I’m going to deviate from standard reviewing practice and not go over the main points of the film. You can, and should, watch it and do that yourself. Instead, I am going to review the places where I found myself joining the conversation, where I resonated, and where light shone in my spirit. On second thought, if you watch this film and try to outline the “main points” then you’ve probably missed the main point because the main point really is whatever you have to add to the conversation about God, faith, and hope for the church.
The themes that really jumped out at me were space and practice. The empty chair behind Callid Keefe-Perry in the opening sequences of the film captivated me. I thought, “We are leaving space for God. God is going to meet us here. He is going to fill that chair.” Later, we hear a woman talking about how faith, and the necessity of having to have faith, really sucks because those around her appear to have a meaningful faith life with little effort while she struggles to “get it right.” I have frequented that place of struggle and comparison quite regularly myself, so it was comforting to hear another woman speak about her journey to find a community that created the space necessary for her to practice faith from her gut. In this sense, then, “Made as Makers” highlighted that creativity in faith includes the importance of matching people to practice, the experimentation required to discover what fits, and the necessary balance between what fits and pushing boundaries of comfort. For example, I naturally find more spiritual and creative space in structured, repetitive environments; too much free form leads me into spiritual desert. I know many people for whom this is the exact opposite.
Once you’re in this conversation about creative faith, it is really kind of hard to leave. I found myself thinking about these themes of space and practice long after watching the film. I was in the car and listening to an interview with Tracy K. Smith about her struggle to write six lines of poetry, and it got me wondering about the parallels between creative struggle and spiritual struggle, between writer’s block and the dark night of the soul. And then in church we sang a hymn with the line “classrooms and labs, loud boiling test tubes, sing to the Lord a new song!” I was a little bit giddy because my upstairs neighbor is a chemist, who spends her days with petri dishes and pipettes, and I began to think about creative chemists and what that looks like and how somewhere in something that confuses me she finds the space to praise God.
I did have the opportunity to eavesdrop on how “Made as Makers” resonated with a few other people. One viewer highlighted the emphasis on the creative possibilities in a relationship with God where “we don’t have to do it all.” Another was moved by the tension between the experience of faith in which we live and our inability to communicate our experience in such a way that another fully grasps the impact of our experience. He thought that perhaps creativity and poetry might offer the space to experience faith with one another. Some were overwhelmed by a desire to go out and do something creative and artistic.
I believe that this opportunity to process “Made as Makers” with others is essential. This isn’t a conversation to be had between me and a film but within members of the broader Christian community. The hope is that a number of us will watch this and get talking, find an open space, and see what new thing God creates with us. May you watch and add your voice to the conversation as well.