This week, Maggie Gyllenhaal made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show to talk about her new Sundance miniseries, The Honorable Woman, a series which is certainly having a zeitgeisty moment due to the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The New York Times describes it as “a smart, moodily complex thriller about a British-Israeli woman seeking to bring prosperity to the Palestinians,” but adds that it is an even-handed drama showing the good and evil on both sides. (I haven’t seen the miniseries and cannot confirm or deny that assessment.)
Humbly, acknowledging that there are no easy solutions to the age-old conflict raging in the Middle East, Gyllenhaal said to Stewart:
Especially at this moment, where it feels impossible, where it’s really scary to talk about–especially in this country–you know, I think art can be one way in to think and feel about this. Not that it’s going to solve anything, but if you can shift someone a little tiny bit. If it’s too scary to have a conversation with so many people because people get so angry and stop listening, maybe, maybe something like this can make you feel about it in a way that makes you think.
I think this is such a fruitful observation. It’s why I think Christians in particular should be very concerned about good art. A recent article on Christ and Pop Culture’s website asked the question, “Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste?” It was a thoughtful post describing the ways in which culture adds to our lives, but some of those who commented missed the point. One said, “Whether a Christian is or is not cultural or cultured is of absolutely zero importance. It is utterly and totally and completely meaningless.”
Such a statement ignores the good gift of art to challenge us, guide us toward empathy, and open conversations with others. Good art is not tangential. It is a central way of engaging with people, particularly in a time of increased polarization. Art is all about helping us to find empathy for one another. Instead of preaching at each other or shouting at each other, it enables us to walk in one another’s shoes in an embodied way. It may not change our opinions or our core beliefs, but–especially for Christians–it can help us to treat others with greater gentleness as we begin to regard them with increased empathy and respect. It can also open conversations about faith and matters of deeper meaning with those who might otherwise be shut off from such discussions.
What Gyllenhaal is talking about here is what I am trying to do on this blog. I am trying to engage matters of deeper meaning through the belief that “art is one way in.”
How has art opened your heart or opened a door to conversation on a difficult matter? I would love to hear your stories.
Photo credit: Des Willie – © 2014 – Sundance Channel, IMDB.com