On Creating Art
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and of earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen. He created us in His image. Part of our imitation of Him is as creators, or sub-creators, or rearrangers of His creation. We are made to make, to the glory of God. Adversus magazine seeks to cultivate such literary creations.
By this, we do not mean that we seek the literary equivalent of God’s Not Dead (build art with gold, not straw), nor are we advocating some kind of cultural crusade for Christ, wherein Christendom takes hold of some number of mountains of influence. We are simply trying to participate in the tradition of Christian art, done well. Specifically, we want to be an oasis for Christian writers and readers, publishing literary work that helps its reader to think on the Goodness, Truth, and Beauty of God, His world, and His Word— literary work that is praiseworthy and virtuous.
First and foremost, we seek a good story. A good story is one that entertains. Each editor has their own discrete genre preferences, but we are all able to appreciate good fiction. The only thing we absolutely reject is erotica. That is not at all to say we reject sex, of course, as all of the editors are very happily married, though not all to each other. Gratuitous sex and violence, however, (i.e. sex or violence which are explicit but not crucial to the story), as well as gratuitous foul language, have no place here. It is a shame that this is something that has to be said, but there you are.
We said before that we don’t want God’s Not Dead’s literary little brother, but let’s take a less apophatic approach: Christian fiction is any story which illustrates some truth of the Christian faith. Christian fiction is True, with a capital T, because it reflects the nature of the universe and its Maker. It is True because it shows sinners and saints, heroes and villains, monsters and men all as they are. Taking the Scriptures as a model, we can see that God was never shy in relating the violence, depravity, and sinfulness of man. We are of the opinion that neither should Christian fiction.
We also don’t want Lewis or Tolkien impersonations. They are literary role models, to be sure, but they’ve gone to glory. We want your stories and your voices, doing new things with the old Story.
Too often, Christian poetry looks like someone had caffeine shakes near an “enter” key. We believe that such a poet should be cut off from caffeine, the internet, polite society, and possibly their hands. All joking aside, however, we think that you should write formal poetry. We will restrain ourselves from pouring out another 500 words on the subject, and offer the following argument:
Poetry, if it means absolutely everything, means nothing. If poetry is everything, then it is the phone numbers scrawled on bathroom walls as much as it is The Iliad. But if poetry means something particular, if it is definite, then it must have something that delineates it from regular prose. Form is that something. Form sets poetry apart from prose. It sets expectations that can then be exploited for deeper meta-meanings and greater effect. It connects the individual poetic voice to the grand chorale of Poetry that sings through the ages. In short, form gives form to poetry.
Those who eschew form do so to their own detriment. Modern free verse poetry is intimidating because — formless, shapeless, listless as it is — the uninitiated have no way to access the supposed profundity of the free verse poems. Indeed, free verse poetry is the kind of thing that only someone out of whom all taste has been educated could enjoy… which is why, of course, it’s so terribly popular with the Academy.
We could go on and on about the superiority of formal poetry to free poetry, but here, a final point is pertinent: We can come to no other conclusion by studying the Christian tradition. The Scriptures themselves include examples of only formal poetry. But, more pointedly, the Christian tradition has thrived in form. Perhaps this is because God is a God of order, not confusion. Perhaps this is because language reflects the world which God made, and thus finds fuller beauty in order. Whatever it is, the casting down of form (by that fascist Ezra Pound, et al.) is not something to which Christians ought to flock. (Unfortunately, they are; almost every cultural cancer metastasizes into the church. But that doesn’t mean we have to publish them.)
In short, there is no pass for free verse or other bad poetry just because you mention Jesus. Jesus deserves better art.
We are looking for Christian literary works with a little tungsten in their spine. Do you have poems wherein you pour out some righteous anger over abortion? Send them. Fiction that displays sin in all its futility? Send it. We want your polemics as well as your pastorals. We want bold and gut-wrenching and indignant at evil alongside love, devotion, and adulation of a good God. Human experience is not all highs or all lows — use your literature to take us through both.