What the Straus Center Is Reading — Art and Faith: A Theology of Making

art faith theology straus

Makoto Fujimura | Yale University Press | 2021

Reviewed by Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern

In Art and Faith: A Theology of Making, artist and theologian Makoto Fujimura offers a moving meditation on what it means to create.

Referring to God as the One True Artist, Fujimura often turns to the Bible in considering what it means to craft something. Alluding to the rivers that sprung from Eden, including the Phishon—where Genesis tells us “the gold could be found”—Fujimura notes that “Even in Eden the gold was hidden. We have work to do.” Thus, art is nothing less than a sacred calling. “When we make,” he writes, “we invite the abundance of God’s world into the reality of scarcity all about us.” Humanity is by nature a creative being, and “the Bible is full of Making activities.” As Fujimura notes, Bezalel and Oholiab, the Bible tells us, were filled with the Spirit of God as they set out to craft the Tabernacle in the wilderness. There is something profoundly moving and empowering, he argues, in God inviting humans to be his co-creators.

One of the more fascinating parts of the slim volume is the author’s discussion of kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of taking broken pieces and, by piecing them together, making something more beautiful than before. The Japanese “kin” means “gold” and “tsugi” means “to reconnect.” The latter also connotes “connecting to the next generation.” Thus this artistic tradition offers room for reflection on how generations repair and build off of the work of their ancestors. The broken shapes become necessary in shaping what comes next. Thus, Fujimura writes, “we need to find our own mending to be a collage-like journey toward healing.” Looking back on his own journey toward faith, the author notes that “A journey toward the New begins with such an experience of raw authenticity of brokenness, tears, and healing.”

Fujimura argues that places of worship should seek to embrace creativity to engage worshipers. Writing as a religious Christian, he notes that “churches are not investing enough time and effort in thinking about the context of communication, and they are not empowering makers.” Forging a space whereby creative imagination can flow is crucial to religion’s success. After all, as he notes, invoking Martin Luther King Jr., “Our ability to dream, to envision the future in which justice reigns is one of the great gifts of God to us. And as we are made in the image of God, we are capable of this kind of dreaming.”

Appropriately, Art and Faith closes with a prayer. “Let us reclaim creativity and imagination as essential, central, and necessary parts of our faith journey,” Fujimura writes. “Imagination is a gift given to us by the Creator to steward, a gift that no other creature under heaven and earth (as far as I know) has been given.”

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