C. S. Lewis said that "Art for Art’s sake is balderdash."He expects the artist to intentionally serve society by their work. Instead of our modern conception of the artist being worthy of respect simply for beingan artist, Lewis believed that that the quality and intention of an artist’s work actuallymatters. This implies that artists are capable of having - indeed, responsible to have - a practical and helpful impact on culture.
We use our imaginations to comprehend reality.The imagination serves a particular function that makes facts usefulto us. So, in Lewis’s Narnia, the character of Aslan is infinitely and incorruptibly good, wise, beautiful, pure, and powerful. As we readers encounter Aslan, our imaginations internalize these concepts as part of the story. The ideas of absolute good, incorruptible beauty and power, are no longer merely abstract. Understanding throughimagination enables us to grasp these concepts and, in turn, allows them to illuminate our understanding of the world. This baptism of the imagination is the effect that artists aspire to have; to breathe into someone else (or, inspire) a new thought, a shift of perspective, a breath of life.
Making a Straight Path
People need "ears to hear," not only spiritually but also conceptually. As Lewis himself experienced,art can baptize imaginations in this way. A baptized imagination has developed greater conceptual hearing. A person with a baptized imagination can understand concepts formerly inaccessible, as if new synapses have been formed. And this understanding, in the context of relational community, makes ready the path of the Gospel. It is a pre-evangelistic work that must take place, preparing our minds to understand and receive the literal embodiment of these concepts, Jesus. Applying Lewis's example as a literary artist - serving and speaking to culture in practical ways through art- is remarkably effective and necessary in a context like Japan.
Artists must do as Lewis did and prophecy truth for and to culture, baptizing imaginations. That is why we, as artists with a heart for leadership and developing others, find ourselves walking this path to missions in Japan. Ours is a long-game strategy, tied to church planting, of building relationships and community with artists that through themthe people of Tokyo might have their imaginations baptized and the way prepared.