'Jesus and All His Disciples Were Artists' (William Blake) – The Art of Religion” by Norman Franke, PhD.
Abstract: What do we do with the surprising thesis of the famous English romantic William Blake? On inspection, there may be more scriptural and historical evidence for it than many theologians and biographers of Jesus have allowed for. Samuel Foster Damon’s (1988) interpretation of the Blake saying sees spirituality and creative imagination as opening up quasi-artistic views of reality that perceive the eschatological and the divine in the ordinary and the mundane.
This imaginative worldview does not settle with the status quo of political, economic or academic conditions, but seeks to overcome them in order to holistically establish more justice, social participation and beauty. And as modern theologian Pete Enns (2012) reminds us: ‘Jesus himself communicated the deep mysteries of a new way of being through the use of such things as vivid imagery, symbolism, metaphors, and other devices common to artistic expression.’
Following the ideas of Blake, Foster and Enns, I shall analyse the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, which is said millions of times a day worldwide, as a religious poem and close to its original (Aramaic) poetic language. I will also read one of the tehillim (Psalm 126) and a Sufi poem by Rumi (‘Special Plates’) in a similar way, paying special attention to the poetic dimensions of the spiritual texts. With the help of philosopher Ernst Bloch and theologians Dorothee Sölle and Bruce Ellis Benson, the original thesis will then be further expanded: art is not just accessory in the religious and social sphere but is of crucial importance for the constitution and interpretation of the (spiritual) world.
If the divine manifests itself in an ongoing process of creation and liberation, artists are special collaborators in this process. They are potential co-creators. This holds for a diverse range of religious traditions. Neo-liberal and (post-) modern discourses may marginalise and eliminate spirituality and creativity at a cost.