Madeleine L’Engle and the Great Beyond

Madeleine L’Engle, best known for her award-winning A Wrinkle in Time, passed away on September 6th, 2007. A Christian, an author, and a mother, she wrote over 60 books, most of which were read by Children, though she never tried to write books for children, she just wrote for whoever would read them.

At one point in her life, she was asked to write a book on faith and art. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art is by far one of the best books ever written on the subject. It seems more an exploration, where she herself doesn’t always know where she’s going on the journey, and comes across all these profound thoughts along the way. Below are some quotes from the book:

Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject. (L’Engle, 13)

Perhaps the reason I shuddered at the idea of writing something about “Christian art” is that to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity. The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command. Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the artist either says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary. (L’Engle, 18)

Many atheists deny God because they care so passionately about a caring and personal God and the world around them is inconsistent with a God of love, they feel, and so they say, “There is no God.” But even when one denies God, to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept the fact. Basically there can be no categories such as “religious” art or “secular” art, because all true art is incarnational, and therefore “religious.” (L’Engle, 25)

L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water. New York: North Point Press. 1995.

2 thoughts on “Madeleine L’Engle and the Great Beyond”

  1. Mr. Hess says:

    Seth-

    I really enjoyed this post and the one previous. I’d really like to see more posts like the one about dear Madeline. People are starting to turn to blogs more and more for their daily input (lifehacker, the consumerist, starbucks gossip, art palaver…a few i turn to almost daily). When you told me about the Christian Imagination initially, this is what I was expecting. I also like the Christian music one, though it could be good to encourage folks to leave comments.

    Keep it up friend.

    C.S.

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