People sure do have a habit of dividing themselves.
Us and them. Or really, to be more accurate, us verses them.
I don’t think it’s about organization. People like to belong to groups, to be a part of something. But it seems that people equally enjoy making sure others are not part of their group, their team, their side.
You know what? I’m done with the words us and them.
Not One of Us
As an art teacher, I cannot tell you how many adults I have talked to who say they are not artists. Okay, that might not seem like such a big deal.
But where did they learn they were not artists?
In art class.
Without fail, every adult says the same thing. Some student, or even a teacher told them when they were children that they did not have what it took. They were excluded, put down, told that they were not part of this group. We are the artists, and you are not one of us. You are one of them, the people on the outside, the un-special group.
As an art teacher, I just can’t believe another teacher would crush a vulnerable little child like that. What was accomplished? The “real” artists felt more special because their group was a bit more exclusive?
Keeping Them in Their Place
If there’s one group of people who like to divide themselves, it’s Christians.
If people don’t look the way we think they should, or don’t say the right words, or their Jesus doesn’t quite have his hair combed correctly, then they are not one of us. We can’t even agree on who is us and who is them. So we divide ourselves into infinite groups, everyone hiding in their little castles with walls and moats designed to keep them out and away from us.
But then, even inside our safe little castles, there are still small us and them groups. We tell some people they can pray and speak and serve and teach.
But not them.
Is this division really based on qualifications? Because there are a whole lot of people who are in the “us” group who can teach and preach and sing and serve, who surely are not spiritually qualified to do those things. But no matter, keeping us separated from them is more important.
Democratizing Art, Faith and Everything Else
Whether it’s art or my faith or whatever else I do, I am quietly, almost silently realizing that those two little pronouns…
…have less and less significance to me. Who I am is not built on who I keep walled off and kept out. We do not protect our rights by depriving others of the same rights. We do not protect our faith by depriving others of the chance to participate. We do not protect our art or any of the other things we are making out of our lives by making sure others know that they are not worthy.
That is my heart in Life After Art. True faith, beauty and life is expressed when it is put into the hands of everyone, democratized, crowd-sourced with the benediction to go and do likewise. There simply can be no more us and them anymore.
Let’s just be…
Matt Appling is a teacher, pastor and writer. His first book, Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, debuts April 1 from Moody Publishers. Watch the video preview, buy the book, and lots of free resources at LifeAfterArtBook.com