Dignify and Deploy 10: Artists
John Wimber would’ve hated that title. Not that he wasn’t a super-accomplished musician worth his weight in gold as an arranger of popular music. He just didn’t care for the preening ‘creative’ who strove for personal glory rather than God’s.
John loved music from the start and developed an ear for its poetic logic. As a child he was inclined to rhythm and blues, and jazz, mostly black music. He learned sax and piano; he could write music, sing well, and began to arrange pieces for various bands. He possessed a musical sophistication beyond his years. After a host of gigs and associations, he began to play and arrange music for the Righteous Brothers, forerunners of ‘blue-eyed soul’ (jazzy white guys) who were cresting. At the time of John’s conversion in the early sixties, his ‘Righteous Brothers’ had two hits in the top ten and planned to tour with the Beatles.
John knew something of popular culture—his gifts and discipline could’ve landed him a long run making money. As an arranger, he did the hardest work behind the popular song. He was its catalyst. Of note: his ‘arranging’ gifts gave him an innate knack for bringing together each musical part deemed essential to create the best sound (apostolic leadership, anyone?); it also primed him to distill the best words and music to glorify God. John was a master artist who, to glorify His Master, made beautiful music. More than that, he dignified persons around the world by deploying them to pen and sing simple love songs to the Savior.
If Wimber was weaned on jazz, Wojtyla thrived on Polish romantic literature. Here dashing characters overthrew Poland’s oppressors. Embellished historic accounts had a spiritual core, e.g. the Church, who was decisive and often miraculous in affording Poland hard-won victory over invaders. Jesus and Mary led the charge of Polish revolutionaries who fought for national dignity.
Wojtyla loved this literary spirit of Polish freedom, her fight to define herself according to the truth. That carried over in to his love for theater, with which he ‘was obsessed‘ (his own account). Teen Karol acted as much as he could in school and community theater. He began to write plays as well. Later, in Krakow, Karol graduated to the Rhapsodic Theater where a band of young dramatists wrote and acted in plays as an eloquent weapon against Nazi occupiers. This ‘Theater of the Living Word’ emphasized the moral tension each person faces amidst such evil.
As an actor and poet in this vein, Wojtyla honed a lens through which he saw each human person as a player in his own spiritual and moral drama. An adventure—will one heroically aspire and become free? Or will he settle for less, at the cost of his own dignity? In this way, Wojtyla energized conversion. His summon to all people to fight valiantly for freedom in the dignity of truth, regardless of cost, is rooted in a prophetic, artistic soul.
“Father, help us to heed the poet who sings and speaks to our deepest heart. Summon what is most true in us and help us to fight for our good, and the good of others.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”