Chris Cragin-Day, MFA '05
Associate Professor of English and Theater
People, mostly Christians, often ask me how my faith influences my art.
They are usually looking for an answer like, “I use some curse words in my plays, but definitely not the F-bomb, and I never take the Lord’s name in vain, or present nudity.”
For me, such an answer doesn’t begin to explain how I’ve come to understand my calling as an artist.
Sometimes it seems that young people only grasp that being a Christian means not saying certain words, thinking about certain things, and only presenting yourself in certain ways. Yes, there are good and legitimate reasons for regulation of social conduct. Art, however, is about telling the most truth about the human experience, depicting both the best and worst truths of humanity. Art can be uplifting and lead to improving our human condition.
Young artists need the space to seek out those truths of the human experience and a platform — their art — to share the truths they find along their journey.
“The faculty helped me understand the freedom I have in Christ as an artist.”
Baylor definitely did this for me. The faculty taught me the knowledge that I would need to participate in theater on a professional level, and they also helped me understand the freedom I have in Christ as an artist.
Therefore, I like to flip the aforementioned question and instead answer the question “How does my art influence my faith?” I have found that when I feed the creator in me, I feel most aligned with my Creator.
I don’t think this is only true for professional artists; I believe this is true for everybody. The first and foremost defining factor of God is that God is the first creator. It’s such an essential aspect of God’s being.
When we participate in creative acts, whether as a writer or actor or audience member, we come to know and understand parts of God’s character that we may not be able to access through theological study or biblical interpretation. Participating in the arts is akin to participating in religious ritual. The very act forces us to recognize our common humanity and to question what it means. Rather than asking “What in the world are you doing?” my 4-year-old son asks, “What are you doing in the world?” His is the right question.
What are we doing in the world?
As Christians, we believe we’re in the world because God has a purpose for us being here. What is that purpose? These are the deeply spiritual questions artists — those of all faiths and those of no faith — ask.
Rather than talk about how my faith changes the content of my art, I like to share how my art has strengthened and propelled my faith. I believe that happens in Baylor’s theater program. It certainly did for me. And it’s a continual journey.