Saturday, March 30, 2019
Beauty Will Save the World
To the extent that I care about theology these days, I can safely state that I am not a Calvinist. And you'd be correct in assuming that a Christian university called Calvin College might adhere to Calvinist theology. All of that is to say that I have no horse in this race other than the horse that believes that art - all by itself, no further justifications theological or otherwise needed - is a worthwhile pursuit. I will also admit to adhering to the stubborn notion that beauty can rip a hole in your soul that lets the light shine through, only because I've experienced that phenomenon time and time again.
I don't know Ken Heffner well. I've only interacted with him a few times when he has graciously invited me to participate as a speaker at Calvin's biennial Festival of Faith and Music. But I've followed him and his work from afar because I've been consistently amazed by and impressed with what one man with a vision can do at a conservative Christian college. I've witnessed dozens of thinkers and yes, first-rate musicians and bands converge on Grand Rapids, Michigan, of all places, to play music and talk about the role of music in living life; actual awake life that is attuned to beauty and truth and escaping the tiny prison of oneself. Some of those thinkers and musicians have been Christians. Some of them haven't been. But the level of discourse has been consistently challenging, uplifting, and thrilling. I've invariably emerged from those long weekends re-energized, believing strongly that I'm not alone in this strange, God-forsaken, spiritual-platitude-mouthing country, and that there were and are people out there who see the world in roughly the same way I do. Brothers and sisters? It's a bizarre and wholly inadequate concept for the most part, but I found them at Calvin College.
So I'm saddened but not at all shocked that the conservative Christian world has deigned that people like Ken no longer make sense, or cents, for Christian universities. You can't bank on the commodities in which Ken Heffner trafficked. What is the value of seeing the world in new ways? What is the price tag for being ripped wide open by beauty?
I have no answers to those questions, but I want to thank Ken Heffner for being Ken Heffner, and for focusing on the priceless.