What does it mean to be a Catholic and an artist in a secular world?
This question has been on my mind lately.
For those of you who have been a part of the art world, whether in dance, visual arts, music, or something else, does it seem that there is very little room for God? Is it just me? Catholicism has always been an important part of my life and a part of who I am; but I have always felt that it is semi-unacceptable to be open about that part of myself. It is actually accurate to say that it feels semi-unacceptable to be open about being a Catholic in general in our world today, but right now I am specifically writing about God in the artist’s world.
The thing is, I do not have the desire or even feel the need to talk to everyone about God all the time; I am an introverted person by nature and evangelization through words is not a strength of mine. I am also of the opinion that actions can speak in the place of words; I can share the love with the things I do and the way I treat people. I think the true conflict comes from feeling that being completely open and candid about my faith would bring some judgment and disapproval. Am I a whimpy Catholic? Maybe so. But when I feel like that detail about myself would negatively influence others’ opinions about me as a person as well as my work as an artist, it is difficult to be openly religious. It is not something I am ashamed of or try to actively hide, rather it is something I do not voluntarily share about myself. If it comes up in conversation with other people in the dance world, much like ripping off a band-aid, I say it quickly and move on.
Okay, so I do sound like a whimpy Catholic.
But I have witnessed such a great amount of scorn and mocking from those who are non-religious in the art world, aimed at those who are indeed religious. As artists, who are supposed to be open and accepting of all kinds of people and all kinds of ideas, it is disappointing that some groups of artists can be so exclusive and look down upon others who don’t fit their idea of the term “artist”. Art is for everyone, and if an artist truly believes that, than he or she should not be so quick to judge another for religious beliefs.
For this reason, I still get nervous when God or religion comes up in a conversation with another dancer or group of dancers. I know it’s silly, because I am a grown adult who should not care about the opinions of others. But, when I feel as though my artistic views might be discredited because of some preconceptions they have about people who are religious, it is a difficult subject to speak about openly. I will not claim that the arts are completely void of God and people who are religious, as there are many dancers and artists who are religious or spiritual in some way. Maybe there are more and they are all hiding because they feel like the art world is not accepting of religious people ;)
Anyway, I think that actions, more so than words, can be the most important part of evangelization. If you look at the life and work of Mother Theresa, she spoke and wrote about God, but the most important work she did was hands on, in the field, showing love through her actions. I don’t imagine that the starving people she helped were terribly interested in religious sermons, as their first priority was survival. And while I would never, ever, EVER be able to compare myself to her, I do think that the world needs more people who do the work, instead of more people who do the talking.
So, the question still remains: what does it mean to be a Catholic and an artist in secular world?
It means that I cannot judge those who are not religious, just as those who are not religious should not judge me. I do not know enough to judge. You do not know enough to judge. Don’t do it.
It means that sometimes I have to miss mass on Sundays when I have shows or rehearsals. But it does not mean that I have to do something for my art that goes against my beliefs just to please a director or teacher.
It means that I do not have to agree with or like everything my fellow artists do or create.
It means that I am completely capable of respecting and cooperating with people and artists who don’t hold my same beliefs. People with different or no religious inclinations should offer the same universal respect.
Photo cred goes to my sister-in-law Katie! Check out her amazing work here: http://www.katiekolbrickphotography.com/
That’s all for now!