A swirl of discourse has surrounded Cory Asbury’s massively popular track “Reckless Love” from his 2018 album release of the same name. “Reckless Love” has split the church world down the middle, with the key divisor being “good theology”. I’m not going to talk about that - instead, I want to explore creativity, art and meaning.
I believe that this song is symptomatic of a profound and growing lack of artistic literacy, especially in The Salvation Army. I see it in a reflexive knee-jerk reactions to media that we are ill equipped or simply refuse to understand. The language of art and the pursuit of meaning has been neutered by the lazy age of instantaneous communication and gratification.
The motivations behind a piece of art or its artist might never be known. To an artist, dictionary definitions are false equivalencies to experiences and stories. Creation precedes interpretation. It’s not likely Asbury was thinking of how the global church would react to the word reckless when he wrote the song. He felt it first, we consumed it second.
To an artist, dictionary definitions are false equivalencies to experiences and stories.
Meaningful art is about seeing things in different ways. It’s confrontational. It invites us to wrestle with it, and requires (sometimes demands) our attention. I would argue that “Reckless Love” has done just that. If art is a mirror, Asbury has claimed and subverted the vehicle of language to reflect the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God - one that dared to give value to tax collectors and prostitutes.
Creativity, art and meaning cannot become like those outcasts who were shunned by the church simply because they were dirty, misunderstood or too hard to figure out. Just as we see Christ through the beggar on the street, so too should we see Christ in the struggles and perseverance of the artist’s heart.
Creativity, art and meaning cannot become like those outcasts who were shunned by the church...
I believe the discussions generated around the song is helpful to the church, but we need to go further and deeper to challenge our perceptions of Christian art. We must again learn to wrestle meaning from the art we interact. We cannot rely on face value and preconceptions to make our interpretations for us. We simply cannot afford the cost of segregating art, creativity and meaning: a church that shuns its creativity shuns its Creator.