I don’t do “crafts.” I don’t knit, decoupage, sculpt, or re-cane chairs and I don’t want to.
But crafting is on my mind as I read about “Makerspaces” popping up around the country. Check out The Idea Foundry in Columbus, Ohio where people create beautiful things in community in a former shoe factory. Or The Church of Craft with “parishes” in fifteen cities. Their spiritual practices involve showing love by making things.
We talk about spiritual nurture in our traditional churches, but what if we were clearer about crafting souls?
Nefarious groups throughout the world craft souls for destruction. ISIS seeks out lonely disconnected people with false promises of love and community. The organization that influenced the young man who assassinated nine souls in Charleston indoctrinates weak, fearful people with erroneous statistics and incendiary stories.
“Mommy, why does God let Jews live?” Todd Blodgett reported hearing a 5 or 6 year old ask this of her mother after attending an Aryan Nation/KKK meeting when he was an undercover officer with the FBI. We teach our children all kinds of things – intentionally or unintentionally. What if we, in the church, committed to crafting souls with a wholly different message?
Creativity takes time. We don’t craft souls by plopping them in front of televisions or dropping them off at Sunday School (so somebody will teach them “good values.”) It happens slowly, lovingly sculpting and shaping souls. It happens over trusted conversations during walks and around the kitchen table. Crafting souls is more about teaching love than indoctrinating for power and control – although love is the greatest power and a soul controlled by love can do the miraculous.
When SBC was in kindergarten, we took two young friends to a movie and before the movie started, there were a series of slides shown before the previews. You know those slides: some advertisements, some announcements. A Red Cross slide popped up showing a Black firefighter carrying a White child out of a burning building. One of SBC’s little friends asked me, “Why is that man trying to steal that girl?”
Me: He’s not stealing her. He’s saving her from the burning building.
SBC’s Little Friend: No. That Black man is trying to take her.
Me: No. He’s saving her life.
As I argued with our young guest, my first thought was “Who is teaching this kid racism?” My second thought was that I didn’t want SBC playing with her anymore. But actually, I might have been one of the few people “crafting her soul” for love.
That sounds really obnoxious, doesn’t it? It makes me sound like my way is the loving way, the only way. The truth is that we indeed mold our children. But do we have the right to craft the souls of other people beyond our own circle of families and friends? I think we do. I believe, in fact, that this is our calling as followers of Jesus.
Crafting souls is not about indoctrination and hit-and-run evangelizing. It’s about demonstrating what the love of God looks like. Sometimes it looks like climbing a flagpole and sometimes it looks like correcting a child lovingly.
Questions to ask as we assess the efficacy of soul crafting in our congregations:
- Do we offer the educational equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to our children (i.e. quick and easy with very little nutrients)?
- Do we adopt the trendy practices of other churches without thinking it through (i.e. explaining why we are doing it beyond the fact that it’s supposed to be the next new thing?)
- Is worship comparable to sitting in front of the television seeking entertainment with little investment or participation?
- Has church become just one more thing to do each week, like laundry or filling up the gas tank?
- When was the last time we listened to our neighbor in the pew tell us about her life beyond the most cursory comments?
- Are we spending a lot of time “in church” volunteering/working and yet that time is making us feel exhausted instead of spiritually fed?
What if we shifted our perspective to see our church lives as being about allowing our own souls to be crafted so that we might be equipped to be spiritual artisans ourselves?
Image is one of Jaume Plensa’s public art projects in Millennium Park, Chicago.