Creativity and Social Transformation

If in the Judeo-Christian tradition we believe that we were created in the image of God, a God who is continually at work bringing to birth the Universe and the God who “makes all things new” then why isn’t creativity something that gets more attention in our church communities?

I think, in part, it is because creativity is threatening to institutions and to the status quo. Also, from working extensively with persons in ministry, church culture can be just as consumed with busyness as the rest of the culture and creativity takes time and space to nurture and nourish.  It requires a real commitment to cultivate.

“Creativity” is also one of those words that can conjure up images of self-help books or seem self-indulgent when there is just so much other work to be done.  Creativity itself is also a neutral term, essentially meaning to make something new.  It can be a tremendous force for good or for bad—even things like nuclear energy and war technology are brought into being through the insights of the creative process.

Precisely because of this spectrum of creative acts, do we need ways of bringing creativity into a communal context, into conversation about the promise (or potential detriment) of the new ideas being born within us.  We need places where we can hold the new things emerging in the context of discernment.  Creativity also requires practices like Sabbath-keeping, humility, dream-tending, ways of freeing the imagination, and making space (and many others) to be nurtured in healthy ways, practices about which our religious traditions have great wisdom and which I will continue to explore in more depth here and in my own life.

We live in a time that so desperately needs new visions and ideas, new ways of being and doing in the world.  How do we negotiate peacefulness and alternatives to war and hunger and the ravages of illness?   How do we make our communities places where we can all thrive together?

We may begin creating for ourselves, delighting in the joys of self-expression, claiming ourselves as artists of our own lives—an often difficult, and necessary, step and why books on creativity are often bestsellers.  But a commitment to creativity and the practices that help to support it ripples out far beyond our solitary concerns, especially when intentionally brought into the community.  What would happen if our faith communities dedicated themselves to being places of healthy creativity?  What kind of power might we unleash if we gathered together to dream dreams and free our imaginations to discover new possibilities and new ways of being?

Creativity is nothing short of essential to our vitality, our hope, and our future.

-Christine Valters Paintner

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