Thoughts on faith and art, Part 1

Within this new year, all I hope to be is transparent in who I am.

One of the main areas that I hope to be more transparent about is my faith. It seems as if I wasn't handed an easy journey. It is so difficult for me to even write this down, and even harder to get over the hurdle of publicly addressing that I am a Christian. When I was in high school being a Christian was one of my main identities. I was all about going to church on Friday nights and hanging out with my church friends at school. Even to this day, many of my closest friends are people that I met at church. But in the last ten years since high school, it hasn't been easy for me to maintain this identity. I've flip flopped back and forth and had countless arguments with Christians, as my politics differed greatly, and suddenly I realized that it was hard to be a feminist, a liberal, pro-choice, justice-minded, LGBTQ affirming AND a Christian. At least in many of the groups I found myself in in my early 20's. (Since then, I've found solid folks who I can relate to, but in high school and early college... NO).

It was from these experiences that I've carried so much hurt and pain for so many years. My anger towards my peers, many who I no longer respected because of their close-minded views, kept me from church and having anything to do with Christians. Even being involved with a year-long justice-focused missions program didn't make me yearn for Jesus more. I'm not even sure when the switch happened. It's been a slow and gradual process. I have been allowing myself to be forgiven for all that anger and pain, and forgiving others in situations outside my control. I am learning to just let go. I am learning that people are different and that's ok. I am coming to terms with who I am, and the life that God is allowing me to live. And I am thankful and so privileged to be friends with so many amazing artists and musicians and activists. I am humbled everyday because of all the love and work that people invest in to build towards a more just tomorrow.

Recently I've been listening to a lot of hip hop. I mean, I gravitate to it more than other genres. Some favorites over the years are: Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Rocky Rivera, Salt 'N Pepa, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def/Yasiin Bey, Ceschi, Talib Kwali, Typical Cats, Artoo, LNC, etc. 

Which brings me to this rapper named Jin, who was a battle rapper on BET in the late 90s. All the Asian teens growing up in the 90s knew who Jin was, where or not we dug it, we still knew who he was. Perhaps one of the first Asian American hip hop artists to make it to the mainstream. And then poof, he disappeared! What is crazy is that at the same time that I start thinking, "Hey, what happen to Jin?" He pops back on the U.S. scene in quite an interesting way.

Intriguingly to me is that Jin is now very vocal with his faith. Our society doesn't really allow artists who are Christians to exercise their craft without getting boxed into "Christian art" or "Christian music." My own personal journey of trying to live a life of faith but also be involved with underground art, zines and comix has been quite a struggle. Because I don't feel that my faith is relevant in those spaces. If anything, it is the opposite. I feel like having faith is looked down upon, or seen as so passe. On the other hand, it has been even more difficult to find Christians who are creative, into weird shit, able to just get real with it. I mean, life isn't always clean lines. And my visual input on a daily basis is tons of vomit, gore, drips, horror, eyeballs, body mod, you know, underground culture isn't always the most censored culture, nor should it be, because that's why it's exciting. But it's hard to find other Christians who are down with that.... And maybe I should turn from these 'wicked ways' but man, I really like that type of art, and its what I do as well. 

So its been a struggle! I constantly feel that I must just silence my faith in regards to my art. And its super hard to make genuine art about one's faith. Especially if you don't want it to be cheesy and cliche. I mean, do I really want to draw a cross and a fish in my doodles? Does that symbolism really speak to my experiences? And if I don't have any of that imagery or symbols, could that art still be faith-based art? Why does it have to be so blatant? 

For me, things get complicated really quickly, so most of the time, I'd rather not express my feelings about God in public, especially in my artwork. So I respect what Jin is doing. I've listened to a lot of his newer work, as well as his music from the last few years, as well as interviews, and I have to say that I respect the direction he is moving towards. And I'm encouraged to keep seeking after God, and to keep seeking after my art and writing with the hope that someday I'll be able to combine them.

But he has overcome some hurdles in his career that I haven't, like, being okay with being known as a Christian rapper, even if he doesn't wish to be boxed in and labeled as such. Here is Jin addressing that he is a Christian, and he raps, but doesn't necessarily seek to label himself as a Christian rapper. I appreciate his honesty and his boldness in his faith.

I guess this is all to say that I'm working on myself. That I want this blog to really document who I am as a person, holistically. That I want to be honest, with the people that read this, but more importantly with myself. Because in the end, I shouldn't be ashamed of my faith, because its been hard work to remain a believer throughout the years. And Christians aren't always the easiest folks to chill with (Sorry just being honest). But I also know for a fact that my faith and my art flow together and have allowed me to heal through hard times. If it wasn't for the two, I might not be as at peace nor as fulfilled as I am now. These are my thoughts for now... to be continued. Thanks for reading. 

1 comment:

Amy Kuttab said...

Thanks for posting this. Your courage is super inspiring!