More Incisive, More Powerful, More Permanent: Cast Your Vote for Image!

selfie2webA political season is upon us. I’m guessing that whatever your party affiliation or philosophical persuasion, right about now you are frustrated and anxious about the political process. Yes, democracy is messy, but the amount of anger, fear-mongering, and divisiveness out there is leading many to cynicism and despair.

Millions of votes have been cast, but have they moved us toward a better place?

Since I’m a writer, I got curious about the root of the word “vote” and was surprised by what I found. It comes from the Latin word meaning “to vow” or “to desire.” One of its earliest uses in the West was “to assign by a vow; to devote religiously.” Hence “devoted” and also “devout.” Maybe if we saw our votes as vows we’d cast them more wisely, not in anger or frustration. But now is the time to recall what some of us have been pointing out over the last thirty years:

Culture is upstream from politics.

Ultimately, the stories we tell and symbols we use to understand ourselves are what will shape the political debates.

Beauty, with its expression in art, is one of the most powerful shapers of culture. At last year’s MusicCares tribute to Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter said, “There’s no doubt that his words of peace and human rights are much more incisive and much more powerful and much more permanent than the words of any president of the United States.”

Art teaches us to pay attention to the small quiet moments, the daily decisions, the seemingly insignificant gestures that make us human. Art is unafraid to look at the worst things about us—but it’s also able to show us the overlooked good in humanity. It gives us a language to speak and share these things.

And in an election year, this is refreshing news.

If you looked at the past few issues of Image for clues about our age, you’d come up with a pretty different picture than you’d get from this year’s election coverage:

• A young poet, who is also a pastor, reads the body language of his congregants and listens to the deeper desire for connection beneath every conversation.
• A six-year-old girl begins asking her father questions about the world that make him realize how much we can love a thing we don’t understand.
• A car crash victim, the daughter of immigrants, is mystically connected to the boy who receives her transplanted heart.
• An elderly Christian statesman visits a dying Jewish philosopher in Jerusalem.

The truth is that we are “voting” every day of our lives, by the way we live. At Image we believe that a life nourished by art, faith, and mystery does have an impact on our world.

Image’s approach to the world—ecumenical, interfaith, seeking out beauty, finding new ways to explore ancient faiths, inviting others to become attuned to the rhythms of slow culture, generating meaningful dialogue—stands in stark contrast to the current political climate, which is divisive, hyperbolic, and fearful, with an eye always on the next news cycle.

In the spirit of this mission, we now write with a request. In a very special way, we are asking you now to cast your vote for Image.

We are asking you to make that vow, show your devotion, and cast your vote with a financial contribution.

Image needs your financial support. The need is real! While our readers tell us that the quality of our magazine has never been better, our donations, which are used to fund operations beyond the subscription revenue, are not keeping up with our costs. This is especially true for the months of May through September.

I trust you know how hardworking the Image staff is, and how much programming we put out into the world: a world-class journal, a beloved summer workshop, a postgraduate fellowship and an undergraduate fellowship, an acclaimed blog, a gorgeous website, and an email newsletter that goes out to 8,000 subscribers.

We work our hearts out because we believe in Image, which you have voted for time and again. For that we are grateful beyond words.

Cast a vote today that you don’t have to feel ambivalent about.

Vote for art, faith, and mystery. Vote for slow culture and the space that imagination carves out where we can meet and come to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.

Thank you, now and always.

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Image above by Aubrey Allison.

Annie Spans the Gap, Part 2

This editorial statement from issue 88 is continued from yesterday. Read Part 1 here

Illustration by Alissa Berkhan

Illustration by Alissa Berkhan

In 1994, Image was in its infancy, and I was living in Wichita and working with the Milton Center, a nonprofit devoted to fostering excellence in creative writing by people of religious faith. Thanks to a major grant, we were able to put on a conference, the highlight of which was giving an award to Annie Dillard. We chose as a theme the phrase “Spanning the Gap,” taken from Holy the Firm and included in the epigraph in yesterday’s post. We wanted to explore the way writing itself might span the gap between here and eternity.

I was assigned the task of introducing her, which more or less scared the hooey out of me. I had only read a few scattered pieces of hers, and the only full book I was able to read in preparation was Holy the Firm, because it is so short.

I remember very little about the introduction, except that I described her as “a nature writer on speed.” What I lacked in insight I tried to make up in verve. Her reading was of course electrifying as she paced back and forth, declaiming from one book or another. The audience was pleased. [Read more…]

A Metaphorical God, Part 1

St-thomas-aquinasThe following is adapted from the preface to The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery.

My God, my God, thou art a direct God, may I not say a literal God, a God that wouldst be understood literally and according to the plain sense of all that thou sayest? but thou art also…a figurative, a metaphorical God too; a God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions, such spreadings, such curtains of allegories, such third heavens of hyperboles, so harmonious elocutions, so retired and so reserved expressions, so commanding persuasions, so persuading commandments, such sinews even in thy milk, and such things in thy words, as all profane authors seem of the seed of the serpent that creeps, thou art the Dove that flies.—John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

The essays gathered in The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery were originally published as editorial statements, each beginning an issue of Image. They seek to explore the trinity of terms we’ve set forth in the journal’s subtitle, “art, faith, mystery.” Whether these words strike you as intriguing or pretentious may depend on your personal tastes, but anyone proposing them for consideration ought to have an explanation or two handy for the curious. [Read more…]

Why We Donate: Two 24-Year-Olds on Meaningful Support

Today, Image Director of Programs Tyler McCabe and Marketing Associate Aubrey Allison share their perspectives on the future of art, fostering a culture of empathy, and the role of religion in a thriving inner life.

Brothers and Sisters 1_rgd cropped small
Ruth Weisberg. Sisters and Brothers (detail): Wellspring.

Citizens of the Future

By Tyler McCabe

When I was seventeen I took a course in environmental biology at my local community college. The professor charged into the classroom on our first day, spilled her raincoat and bags around the lectern, and shouted in the language of fanfare: Welcome, citizens of the future!

By the end of this course, she said, we would begin to envision ourselves this way, as citizens riding waves of our own creation, agents of actions rippling forward. And she was not shy about implicating our wallets—even my adolescent wallet with my trickle of income.

We vote with our dollars, she said. It’s the truest vote we have. For example, when you buy a hamburger at McDonald’s, you are voting Yes, I approve of the whole environment surrounding this product: the farming practices, the treatment of the farmers and plant processing staff, the global franchise system, the foundation’s efforts, the pay and benefits of the employees, the waste disposal—all of it.

In the fullness of its action, your $1.39 buys you a big question.

What will be the environment of my future citizenship? [Read more…]

The Ardent Whisper of God

12glenGuest post by A.N. Muia

The following post is adapted from a talk given at the 2014 Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I came to the Glen Workshop while on sabbatical. For fourteen years, I’ve served as a minister to Mexican migrant workers, jail inmates, and addicts at the ministry of Tierra Nueva in Washington State.

The sabbatical was my chance to finally focus on writing, a lifelong passion that had gone dormant during the busy years of ministry. My inner voices told me that it was difficult to justify writing fiction when people are struggling and dying from addiction. Ministry updates became my primary genre. And testimonies. And grants.

But a novel about Baja California—a world of colonial missions, priests, soldiers, indigenous, pearl divers and saint-makers, the roguish and the devoted—lay dying in my drawer. [Read more…]


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