Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Mystery of Art (Ancient Faith Publishing)

A quick Google search of Jonathan Jackson pulls up a list of acting and musical credentials. He was Lucky Spencer on General Hospital, a role that landed him five Emmy Awards. He was the title role, Jesse Tuck, in the book-turned-movie Tuck Everlasting. I admit to not knowing him for either of these roles. I actually know him as Ricky Ferris, aka the guy who almost prevented Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence on Boy Meets World. Just think, if Ricky and Topanga had ended up together our TVs would have never been graced with Girl Meets World. In all seriousness though, Jonathan Jackson is more than an actor or a musician, he is a Christian (and a convert to Orthodox Christianity), and to his immense credit has never shied away from it like other Hollywood celebrities have. Today, I am reviewing his book, The Mystery of Art: Becoming an Artist in the Image of God.

Jackson begins his book by explaining that the highest form of art is prayer. He quickly clarifies that one does not need to be a Christian to be an artist or vice versa. He does, however, ponder whether one can reach the pinnacle of either (Christianity or art) without being both a Christian and an artist. He then defines the purpose of this book, which is "to open a dialogue between the Christian soul and the mystery of art." Lastly, in the introductory material, we learn a brief bit about his journey to Orthodoxy, the Christian East. He explains his clash with Christian Fundamentalism and their view of art as unnecessary at best and sinful at worst. Unfortunately, he paints the West with a broad-stroked brush with the lines, "The original vision of Christianity was maintained in the East and faithfully passed on from generation to generation. There were no crusades or inquisitions, no papal demands for supremacy, no systematic theology or Reformation." This is a broad statement that is not entirely true. It is also a hurtful and unnecessary shot to take at Roman Catholicism.

Jackson then devotes the rest of the book to explaining what art is and what it is not. For example, art is prayer, beauty, mystery, and sacrament. Each chapter is written in a very personal style with references from Jackson's own life and career. The book also has the feel of a lecture/talk that was given and transcribed (not that is a bad thing). I imagine this would make a fascinating audiobook, especially if Mr. Jackson was the one reading it. In between some chapters is what I call "bonus material." This bonus material are poems that Mr. Jackson has written. Anyone who says that actors lack a brain just need to read this poetry to see that couldn't be further from the truth. The account of St. Genesius of Rome was the perfect way to end this book. So whether you are an artist or a Christian, or just one looking to understand how the two converge, I recommend this book.

This book was provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes. For great Lenten reading, check out their wonderful selection of Lenten books here.