Book Club Channel
Cultivating a Holy Imagination: An Interview with Michael Card
In his latest book, Luke: The Gospel of Imagination, singer-songwriter Michael Card invites us to journey through scripture with the imagination, as well as the intellect. Here, jazz musician Deanna Witkowski talks with Michael about his imaginative approach to scripture, the relationship between music and faith, and some of the central passages from Luke that are brought to life once again for both musicians in the writing and reading of this book.
Visit the Patheos Book Club to read an excerpt from the book, and reviews by musicians and artists.
Your concept of the "informed imagination" made me think a lot about St. Ignatius. I became Catholic a couple of years ago, and read a lot about Ignatius's spiritual exercises, such as the idea of placing yourself inside the context of a gospel story, or identifying with a specific character. Was the "informed imagination" an idea that you specifically heard from Bill Lane [Michael's former teacher and mentor at Western Kentucky University], or from others as well?
That really came from Bill. Bill was so widely read that I don't doubt that he might have been affected by Ignatius. He was the kind of guy who went to Linz, Sweden and read Philo in Greek for eleven years—he read everything.
The Catholics aren't as afraid of the imagination as the Protestants. I think Protestants are afraid of the imagination because every time the King James uses it, five times in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament, it's always evil. Imagination has this evil twist with the King James generation.
I had to go back and do my homework and see where the King James mentions imagination. Interestingly, in both the Hebrew and the Greek, the word is heart—"the reasonings of their heart." There's no word for "imagination." It's either cardia in Greek, or the Hebrew word lev, which is the word for heart. My response [to those who are concerned about the King James' mentioning imagination in a negative way] is, "You're right to be concerned if the imagination is evil, but the Bible is talking about the heart. Don't you think we're supposed to use our hearts? Are our hearts not involved? Our hearts are definitely sinful, but is God not redeeming our hearts? Is that not what scripture is all about?" People tend to soften at that point.
A lot of times I get questions from people such as, "How can you be a jazz musician and a Christian?" That seems to also go with imagination.
Absolutely. Kirk Whalum is a very good friend of mine. He'll have someone read a verse of scripture and then he basically plays it—he improvises the verse on his saxophone. We did a worship service once that lasted for three hours. I was sitting next to a minister who turned to me afterward and said, "What just happened?" He couldn't put words to it, but it was Kirk just doing his thing.
I think that's cool.
I do, too. I can't do that musically—I'm a folk guy. It's three verses and a chorus for me.
Deanna Witkowski is a pianist, composer, and vocalist heralded for her "consistently thrilling" playing and her "boundless imagination" (All Music Guide). She was the winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 2002 and has appeared on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. An acclaimed bandleader/composer, Witkowski has released four recordings. Her latest, From This Place (2009: Tilapia Records) marries ancient and modern sacred texts with the richness of jazz.