One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises
shatter the illusion of integrity…”
-Rush, Spirit of Radio
Yes, I’m quoting Rush again… I can’t help it. i was listening to the radio and they came on and when I heard this line, it really stuck in my head. In their song they bemoan the idea of the music industry losing its integrity. That was 1980 and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but listen to any pop station and you will probably have to admit not much has changed. Integrity in the arts is huge and often lacking.
But let’s go further. Add faith to the mix and integrity becomes infinitely more crucial. After all, we are trying to honor God with the gifts He has given us. We are trying to communicate His message, and represent Him to the world around us and that is no small task. How can we create with integrity?
Well for starters, what is integrity? It’s derived from the same word we get “integer” from. An integer is a whole number and integrity also implies a kind of wholeness. A creative with integrity, will bring his or her best to every task. They will let their yes be yes and their no be no, as Scripture says. They try to live a life worthy of their call and they honor God and everyone else as best they can.
Integrity in the arts usually implies originality. That’s not to say we’ll never quote someone else’s work (see above) or expand on what someone else has done, but it’s never a “knock-off.” I’ll now use myself as an example. This is not toe say that I have arrived, but as a Christ following work in progress, these are the goals. I’m a cartoonist, but I’m not trying to be the Christian (fill in the name of your favorite cartoonist here.) I’m trying to keep my eyes on my own paper and create the things God lays on my heart. i try to bring my best to every project, having a consistent quality that others can depend on. I work every chance I get to try to learn and grow and try to give God my best. Add to that trying to walk the talk and you get a pretty good idea of how I see integrity.
Integrity also implies giving credit where credit is due. I believe my gifts and talents come from God and with that should come huge doses of humility. Integrity also implies that I will try to help another creative, and that I will never undermine or undercut someone else. At the end of the day, I am trying to do my small part in creating a better world, by being a blessing. When I achieve this in big and small ways, I am close to integrity.
Now truth be known I could have gone a different way. Several year ago I went to a conference for my denomination. I was frustrated beyond belief at what was happening and I did not want to make a scene, so I did what I usually do. I got out my sketch book and expressed my feelings in art. I then came home and posted some of my creations to this blog and a funny thing happened.
I posted them here not as a statement about what was happening but as a demonstration of constructive, creative venting, just for my tribe of creatives that read this blog. Someone from my denomination asked if they could post a fe of the cartoons to their website. I didn’t see the harm so I said yes. Well a group that opposes that group got wind of it and began blasting the work. This drove the hits way up. My blog that gets 30-50 hits on a good day, got 511 hits in one day. This showed me controversy “sells.”
Don’t think the temptation to keep that going with more and more controversial stuff wasn’t huge, because it was. I love getting lots of hits and having lots of people read my stuff but that’s not why I am here. I am here to get the church creating, and to help the church embrace creatives and creativity. The controversy wouldn’t get that done, so integrity demanded I return to what I actually feel called to do.
Integrity is hard won and easily lost. Guard your heart and guard your work. A certain level of worldly success can be found in dropping your integrity. The artistic landscape is littered with the bodies of those who have done it. Real success comes with being true to who God made you do be and doing what you are called to do. Work in integrity with an eternal focus. Ultimately you won’t be sorry.