Last week, March 30-April 1, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held its Festival of Faith & Writing, an every-other-year event that draws participants from throughout North America and occasionally further afield.
Faith and writing. Faith and writing? Something about that conjunction sounds odd. We are used to thinking of the writer as "the Guardian of Deviant Truths," in Chaim Potok's resonant phrase. The writer, we've been told—the artist generically, in fact—questions everything, pledges allegiance to nothing except his or her art. The writer is "subversive," to use the favorite word of assistant professors in the humanities.
And faith? That's for people who don't question—or rather those who repress their questions. Faith is a security blanket for people who can't bring themselves to face the truth, or the music. They congregate in the suburbs, where they go to church and play golf, and when artists like David Byrne fly over them (artists would never actually set foot in the suburbs, you understand), they say to themselves or a nearby interviewer, "I'd rather die than live there!"
So how does a "Festival of Faith & Writing" work? It begins with the inconvenient fact that, like it or not, there are quite a few writers, painters, musicians, and so on who believe in the God of the Bible. It brings some of them together with others who aspire to art or study it or teach it or all three.
Last week the keynoters were Potok, Anne Lamott, and Maya Angelou. The films of Paul Schrader were shown throughout the three days of the festival, and Schrader himself was on hand to talk about his work and to be interviewed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning polymath, Garry Wills. There were far too many other fine writers in attendance ...1
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