Courtney M. McSwain, Writer

Dear Reader: On Faith & Work

(Photo: (ccEsther Gibbons)

Dear Reader,

Growing up, I learned there are two topics one should never discuss at a dinner party: politics and religion. Having lived in Washington, D.C., for the past ten years, I’ve given up on the politics thing; so many people work on political issues every day that they’re bound to come up. But religion remains a sensitive subject. We all get sensitive when it comes to faith and religion because our beliefs about God are very personal, and hearing something that runs counter to those beliefs can be hurtful – even if no hurt is intended.

I remember attending a conference, and one of the speakers was introduced as a former youth pastor among the many other entrepreneurship positions on his resume. My ears perked up, as I waited to see if any aspects of his faith would come through in his presentation. They did, but not how I expected. In explaining his varied life experiences, he remarked that he used to be a pastor, but that he and Jesus were now, “…seeing other people.” Rousing laughter and applause followed the line, and I remember thinking, “Okay, not a Jesus crowd.” As a Christian, I felt uncomfortable but tried to brush it off. I knew the speaker meant no offense to me personally – how could he when he didn’t even know me – yet, I still felt hurt by his comment and the crowd’s reaction because it ran counter to my own beliefs.

For a small second, I considered mentally checking out from the rest of the conference, forgetting what any of these “non-believers” had to say because, obviously, I didn’t want to learn anything from them anyway. But, I was able to bring myself back to the reality that God had put me in that seat for a reason – to learn something and to get inspired to fulfill what He had in mind for my life. So I managed to listen to the rest of the speaker’s presentation and, in fact, I marked his as one of the most memorable and meaningful from the conference. By pushing aside whatever small offense I had initially felt, I learned that:

1) It’s possible to learn from someone who disagrees with my faith beliefs; and
2) The opinion of others can’t hinder my feelings about God, unless I allow them to.

The experience also illuminated the need for a space where artists and changemakers of faith, whatever faith that might be, can explore the connection between God and their creative work. This space is especially needed for those who don’t work in religious-themed arenas, but whose work is still driven by a practice of faith.

I’m curious to know if other artists and changemakers think about how to incorporate faith with their work, and I’m especially eager to find out how creatives who successfully navigate these waters have been able to do it; which is why I decided to focus my blog posts this month on faith and work. This month, I’m bringing you two new artist and changemaker Q&As from creatives who incorporate faith into their work lives, and offer tips on how others can do so as well.

As I fulfill God’s purpose for my life, I believe I have an opportunity to reach artists and changemakers across religious aisles. Yet, I also feel an obligation to incorporate faith into my work in an authentic way, which gives honor to the source of my creativity. If you’ve ever confronted similar feelings, I hope you’ll join me in this conversation and add your comments and questions all month long.

Xo
Courtney

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