Updated: Oct 27
What is the artist’s responsibility in times of war or societal turmoil?
Know what’s going on, care about what’s going on, intercede, and then write from the heart.
There is so much tragedy going on in the world right now, and so many crises causing fear in people. How do we, as artists, respond to what’s happening in the world? We must not be ignorant as to current world events, we must be aware and awake. We want to be aware so that we can get in touch with the hearts of the people around us - those for whom we write, create, and perform. We have to care. We have to empathize. Not even because we’re artists, but just because we’re human. But as artists, our very purpose is to connect human hearts to truth that brings comfort, hope, triumph, encouragement, power, salvation, resurrection, ascension, eternity - real truth that lifts others up. Artists should never be writing or creating except from a place of empathy. Because otherwise it’s not motivated by love, and then in my opinion, it’s not art.
As artists, our very purpose is to connect human hearts to truth that brings comfort, hope, triumph, encouragement, power, salvation, resurrection, ascension and eternity.
That said, it’s so important that art doesn’t become political campaigning or preaching. The minute it becomes a platform for a cause or an agenda is the minute it becomes something other than art. Call it protesting, or campaigning or preaching. But our job as artists is to make someone feel something, not to merely prove a point.
The hard part is, for those of us not directly affected by a situation such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’re not really in a position to represent someone directly affected by it. So if that’s us, what do we do?
The main thing is, we need to *care*. That should lead to getting as educated as we can about the situation, not for the sake of exalting our opinion, but for the sake of trying to know and understand what people are going through. Once we know we should be praying for the people involved, which fosters empathy for them, and helps us get God’s perspective on the subject. From there we might see how a subject for an artistic work may emerge, but one from our own perspective, not trying to write a story we can’t really relate to.
Some of my best songs were written after hours, or even weeks of prayer for a situation. After the shootings at Sandy Hook, I watched the news every night and got on my knees and prayed. I needed to know what the Lord would say to the parents of the victims who’d been shot. I wept for the victims. Because I knew the Lord loved every single person affected so much. It never stops at tragedy with the Lord, at least not without some comfort, some hope. I needed to write about the hope the parents could find. I wrote this song for those parents of the children lost in that horrific event. I made recordings and sent them to Sandy Hook. I’ve since had the song sung at funerals for children as a comfort to the parents. I can only hope someone was comforted by it.
Artists should be among the best at praying, loving, caring, grieving, and empathizing. We have much to give. It should never be a self-centered career, although it sometimes becomes that. But self-centeredness will cancel out our purpose. There should be a cry on our hearts to God on behalf of the world that drives us to want to create. And/or perhaps a cry from God to the world (even better). Because otherwise, what are we doing? Pontificating? Naval-gazing? Passing time? Ego-stroking? If that were the case, then why bother? Maybe we’re just entertaining, which is fine, but then I'd call it entertainment, not art.
We need artists now more than ever.
To this end, I am making it a requirement for certain students of REGA Arts to attend the TORCC-NY conference on Exposing Satanic Ritual Abuse. Yes it’s dark. Why am I doing this? Because as I said above, it is critical that we artists not be ignorant as to the pain of the world. There is a cry from the victims of this most heinous practice that has gone virtually ignored. Thankfully my church, TORCC-NY, has chosen to listen to their cry and do something about it, which is why they hold this conference. Now it’s time for artists to care and to pray about how God might want us to magnify the voices of the voiceless ones. I was honored to write a musical about the subject with and under the direction of my pastors, Dr. Robyn Kassas and Pastor Nathan Kassas, The Fury of His Love. We performed it once, and it made a profound impact. It’s a start. I don’t know where else my own exposure to this subject will lead in my artistic calling, but I’m grateful to know more about it.
We need artists now more than ever. Where are the artists who can help unite the nation by connecting our hearts to truth and love in the context of our present world crises? The Arts are in a crisis of their own - theaters are closing, budgets are being slashed, and Broadway is in a downward spiral artistically and economically. We need a George M. Cohan whose musicals and songs ignited the nation around American values in a way that inspired them to win a war. Or the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein that helped Americans love the America they came home to after World War II. The world needs some consolation, comfort, hope, triumph, encouragement, power, and knowledge of salvation, resurrection, ascension and eternity. Christian artists, please wake up! You have a critical role to play in this moment!
Artists are typically not meant to be problem-solvers, politicians, or preachers (although there is some crossover in those areas). But we can be the heart of a people. What a profound privilege! And what a profound necessity, especially in times like this. I exhort the artists out there to resist the political and social justice soapboxes and to stop fighting for or against certain people groups, and get back to the heart of who it is we’re meant to be writing for and serving. Stoking anger and hatred will defeat our purpose. But starting from a place of empathy, truth, and love has the potential to change the world.
Virginia Hart Pike is the Artistic Director of REGA Arts, as well as a voice teacher, and composer/lyricist/bookwriter.
REGA Arts is a Christian Theatre Company with the mission of training and raising up Christians to have a career in the theatre industry, and creating new works of theater. It is affiliated with Times of Refreshing Christian Center, NY (TORCC-NY) as its spiritual oversight, under the leadership of Dr. Robyn Kassas, Dr. Tony Kassas, and Pastor Nathan Kassas.