Recently, I received an email from an artist, “Dick,” which got my attention because I like his work, and I wanted to learn more about his experience in the Unification Church.
I interviewed Dick intending to get some insight into how his religious experience affected his art. I told him I would only take 15 minutes of his time, in part because I was being considerate, and also because I hate transcribing interviews.
Dick had a lot to say. After we spoke for an hour, he continued to elaborate on his answers, sending me pages on his philosophy about religion, art, love, and life. I wanted to do justice to Dick’s deep thoughts, but instead I will share what struck me about his story.
He was a young seeker, a musician and artist who wanted to do something worthwhile with his life. He was in a relationship with a wonderful girl who was a burn survivor, and he was conflicted about his physical reaction to her scars.
Dick studied fine art before joining the Unification Church. Even though he is a successful commercial artist now, he immediately made an apology after describing his work.
“My painting deals with aspects of tension and release, juxtaposition and the emotive power of color. Sorry, I know I'll have to come up with a better artist's statement than that.”
When I asked Dick why he joined the Unification Church, he told me how being on the road as a musician had come to a dead end for him, not fulfilling his desire for a meaningful life. Later he elaborated on this at length. I found his conclusion particularly poignant.
“I no longer believe in the concept of a messiah. I find the very idea preposterous and childish and feel it can be likened to a situation where everyone in the world is blind and someone suddenly shows up who claims he can see so we all just have to trust him. What are the reference points? It doesn't take much imagination to see that everyone else besides the 'messiah' is in a position of severe disadvantage as he holds all the cards and they hold none. It really is a flea's breath away from totalitarianism. May God–if you exist and whatever you are–save us from any 'messiah' past, present or future, Amen. Also the concept of original sin ... how much time do you have? In the history of humanity how much creative and healthy passion has been sublimated into fear, guilt and self loathing all as a result of a human construct based on the primitive speculation and stifling control of a small power elite…
A child falls, gets up and tries again. We are all children in that respect.”