"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

Let me preface this with two statements:

1. Evangelism and social justice are necessary and normative to the Christian life.

2. Art has a place in shining light on and practicing in both these issues.

For years, Christian writers have been decrying the idea that every book by a Christian author must be evangelistic. I don’t think anyone means that a book necessarily can’t have an evangelistic idea in it. After all, conversion is central to story, whether that conversion be Christian or not (meaning, the conversion could be that someone realizes something about themselves or solves a murder or gets the girl).

As we’ve been discussing this, I’ve seen a rise of books addressing social justice issues. These books have been celebrated for their message. And while many of these books are good, and, as I mentioned above, I believe art has historically had (and should have) a connection to social justice and other concerns of its day, I wonder if we are simply substituting one message for another. 

I’m wondering aloud here, mind you.

Art does something–that I’ll concede. It draws you to beauty or works through suffering or lets you know you’re not alone, for example. 

My question, then, is how much does it need to do? At what point do we subjugate it to utility? At what point does it stand alone?

Small print: Title quote from Woody Allen

Second Life

My eight-year-old niece and I had a chat about the resurrection the other day.

"There will be all kinds of animals," I said.

"Dogs?"

"Yup."

"Cats?"

"Yup."

"Bunnies."

"Yup."

"Monkeys?"

"Yup. And we’ll get to play with them and always have fun. No one will be sad."

"Kind of like your second life?"

Second life. I like that. Of course, then she asked about our third life, and I explained that we wouldn’t need one. We’d never die in our second life.

"Never? Not even when we’re a hundred?"

"Not even when we’re a thousand."

"Or a million?"

You see how the conversation went. Then my niece asked me, "And all humans will be there?"

"If they believe in Jesus."

"Oh. I hope Hannah believes in Jesus," she said. "She’s my best friend."

"Well, you should ask her."

It struck me. That’s the heart of evangelism–getting excited about our second life and wanting others to be there at the resurrection. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be working with the Holy Spirit to see that future sneak into the present. I’m not saying feeding the hungry and freeing the oppressed and healing the wounded is not integral to the work of God’s kingdom. I’m saying sometimes I’ve forgotten this childlike approach to evangelism.

I don’t want to be one of those people knocking on your door with a tract that boils the Bible down to four pages with cartoons.

And so I’ve forgotten the excitement of bringing others into the resurrection, of wanting them to participate in this second life where "blind eyes will open, deaf ears will hear. Then the lame will leap like a deer, the mute tongue will shout for joy; for water will flow in the desert, streams in the wilderness." I love to dream about the resurrection, but I’ve been selfish about it. I’ve been afraid to share it.

I’ve been afraid of what others might think.