Issachar Creatives (Artists Leading the Culture)
God is raising up Issachar Creatives. Not just great artists. Issachar Creatives possess unusual insight into where our culture is headed and they have a deep knowledge of God’s word. This isn’t a term I’ve seen somewhere else, but a term I have created for something that is needed, and something that fits into the way God works through His people. I have based this name on the sons of Issachar from 1 Chronicles in the Bible.
Who were the sons of Issachar? The sons of Issachar were men of wisdom and discernment, who understood the times, and knew what God’s people should do. I believe God is raising his own sons and daughters to be like those of Issachar today. And what if those sons and daughters were from within the ranks of creative executives, artists, entrepreneurs, writers and producers? Here is the verse from 1 Chronicles:
“Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times,
with knowledge of what Israel should do.”
– 1 Chronicles 12.32
Artists & Creatives in the Cultural War
Artists and creatives are always at the forefront of the culture. From the book of Exodus right up to our current cultural tension we find ourselves in today. God designed us to be inspired by stories, dramas and visual aesthetics. No wonder the first person filled with the “Spirit of God” in the Bible was Bezalel (Exodus 31). He was the man called by God to build the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and all the visual works of art and artifacts that would shape Israel’s understanding of their new culture and their relationship to their God, Yahweh. (If you aren’t familiar with Bezalel, check out this short video HERE.
Great leaders have known how to use stories, and aesthetics to unify and motivate their people. Hitler may have been a pathetic artist who couldn’t get into art school in Vienna, but he knew the power of art. There is tremendous power in great metaphors, symbolic posters, and national anthems. They can represent what is good and true, or pervert it(like Hitler did), elevating leaders filled with hubris and obsessed with control.
Thus, understanding any culture requires more than understanding their laws and their leaders. We must understand the narratives they embrace, and the artwork they celebrate. This is where we need the insights and the contributions of men and women like the children of Issachar, we need Issachar creatives.
Understanding our Ecclesiastical Moment (Christendom)
These Issachar Creatives must start by understanding what is wrong within the body of Christ. Sadly, though we are to be known by our unity, Christians have been splintering as the body of Christ. We are not only divided over theological distinctives such as baptism, prophecy, and eschatology. In recent years we have become more divided over how Christians should influence the culture around them. There seems to be a new cause du jour popping up every few months as we deal with racial issues, sexual abuse scandals, and political diatribes that conflate the gospel with a form of political expediency for one side or the other.
The problem is this: Our allegiance is to Christ, not a political party. Only God can rescue, save, and redeem. Politicians will promise the world, but they can never deliver. They are not gods. Contrary to most political campaign promises, they are mere mortals. If Christians are to come out of this era with any integrity it will depend upon how much we keep our eyes on Christ, instead of a political candidate or party. Politicians are not saviors. They are all sinners, just like you and me.
Churches must be set apart from politics enough to maintain an objective, biblical stance on what the state is doing. I won’t attend a church that puts politics before the gospel, or a church that conflates the role of the church and the role of the state. Naturally, Christians should seek public office, and lead based upon biblical principles that will benefit all citizens of their country. But the church is to keep the state in check, as it has sought to do throughout history. This was true of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as William Wilberforce. The church must remain separate in order to maintain that role, and to celebrate what is good and godly, as well as to oppose that which is unjust or evil.
As Issachar Creatives, we must seek wisdom from God, and keep our allegiance to His word. We cannot abandon the church even when churches have abused artists in many ways. We also cannot blindly support the church with our talents with every idea that comes along. We must not become enamored with cultural causes of the moment. We are to be tied to eternal truths, and timeless principles that do not change, but are the same both in and out of season. Our inspiration is Christ alone. It is His love, His sacrifice, and His overflowing and unending love that must fuel our hearts and our art.
Understanding Our Political Moment
As in so much of the world, there is a shift taking place, and the winds of change are evident. So many countries are in a state of change, and the war in Ukraine has brought back fears and concerns many hoped were a thing of the past. Here in America, we no longer live in a country easily divided between liberals and conservatives, with a few radical leftists, right wingers and libertarians. The political landscape has changed drastically, and it has done so rapidly. Long gone are the days where a liberal senator and a conservative senator could disagree over a vote and still grab a bite afterwards and respect one another.
Civility, decorum, and respect are rarely practiced as the activist has replaced the philosopher and the orator. Debate is destroyed by those who merely protest and deny others an audience. It is a sad state when both sides will not denounce such civic erosion.
The extremist views seem to have proliferated, and people on each side of the aisle have grown further apart. One of the best studies exploring this dynamic was done by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. They have shed light upon the degree to which both democrats and republicans see the other party as a threat to democracy. It is an eye-opening and startling report which you can find HERE . The end of the report reads, “The logical conclusion then, is that it is in the long-term interest of the country to pursue a series of strategies and tactics that encourage bridge-building and constructive dialogue and re-affirm America’s reputation as the world’s leading representative democracy.” I think we can all agree that would help, though most are skeptical. But we cannot move forward without reading reports like this and gaining a proper understanding of the problem we face.
Social media has exacerbated this problem. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Social Dilemma, I highly recommend it. It is eye opening, and shows how division and extremism ramped up quickly. Algorithms meant to help have contributed to the problem. If you watch the film, recognize that the solution presented is a human based solution and not biblical because he doesn’t recognize the problem of sinfulness within the human heart. Regardless, I recommend it.
The Two Tales of Two Americas
For those of us here in America, we have a unique battle of ideas fighting for acceptance or even dominance. In this battle there seem to be two main philosophies about where America is headed, and what our past really means. Creating art today should be done with an understanding of these narratives. Without knowing “the times” you may support narratives that are antithetical to the gospel. So many causes today are marketed and presented by talented wordsmiths and psychologists seeking to pull at our heart strings and to make unchristian ideas seem Christian.
On the one hand, there are people who want to preserve what made America the most prosperous nation, and the most innovative, creative, entrepreneurial nation in history. It has provided the freedom to pursue your own dream and to make your own mark. This has required a society that sees each individual as worthy of dignity, respects the law, and respects one another. Only in a society where we all respect the law is there true freedom. It is not perfect, but this country has stopped Hitler and many other tyrants and bullies. It has it’s own blemishes, but it has also been a solace for countless refugees, seekers of political asylum and those fleeing religious persecution. If a creative only celebrates what is good about their country and isn’t able to admit the blemishes and grave errors, you will alienate some needlessly. An Issachar Creative will avoid this error.
On the other hand you have people who want to paint America as the one of the worst countries in the world. They emphasize every mistake and ignore every triumph. They focus on the history of slavery yet refuse to acknowledge the progress that has been made, acting as if no other country comes close to being as evil as ours. In order to maintain this position, they ignore the current human rights crimes committed by countries like China every day. One of the worst offenses being the detaining more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, in order to eliminate their cultural and ethnic identity. Here is our Federal Government’s summary of these issues. If creatives only denigrate their country, and ignore what good is there they will also needlessly alienate others. Issachar Creatives will see both sides, and express both the tragic and the heroic. They will seek to lead both sides to a vision for their city and country that embraces human flourishing. For more on this read this blog on Jeremiah 29 or watch this video.
If we are going to listen to each other, both sides must acknowledge the evil of slavery, while also acknowledging the progress that has been made. To deny progress is to ignore what is blatantly obvious. We now have African Americans in our country whose ancestors endured the horrific lives as slaves while their descendants have become entertainment icons worth hundreds of millions of dollars, (Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Kanye, Jay Z, etc.) and media moguls (Dr. Dre, Oprah, etc.) while others have won the vote in national elections to become President (Obama) and Vice President (Harris). These are not small achievements and ought never to be minimized by either political party. Regardless of how much you love these politicians or artists, it is a triumph to see such successful people who once were marginalized.
Both sides, if they are honest, and willing to have a civil discussion, should be able to accept both the good and the bad in the history of our country. This is the mature, seasoned, and gracious approach. Anything else is foolhardy. If you idealize this country you have allowed pride to blind you spiritually to what injustices have occurred. If you demonize this country you have allowed bitterness to blind you spiritually to what goodness and justice have occurred. Both are blinded and lack spiritual wisdom. We must avoid both of these extremes, and stop listening to people who promote the extremes.
Understanding Our Cultural Moment and War
Our country has moved from WWII to the cold war, to an internal and ideological war. We are torn from within by ideas that cannot coexist. Our history is the story of improving our country for all citizens through minor and major adjustments. Some adjustments came with very little growing pains (labor laws) while others cost us countless lives (The Civil War). Part of Abraham Lincoln’s victory was that our republic stayed intact. Without that larger and stronger union, who would have stopped Hitler? Who would have helped South Korea? America would never have had the strength it possessed as one republic. This is a key part of our history as Americans. Addressing real issues without abandoning the journey toward a better union. That better union amongst people of different tribes and tongues is a sign to the world of what unity and cultural appreciation can really look like. It is part of why millions of people flock to the U.S. every year.
The real problem is that there is a very different philosophy flowing from the halls of academia and corporate America. That philosophy does not want to pivot, iterate, and adapt like an artist responding to challenges in making a great work of art. No. If they were Mozart, they would rip up the music already written. If they were Kanye West, they wouldn’t just try a new beat underneath the lyrics or a new effect on the vocals, they would erase the whole hard drive. If they were J.J. Abrams they wouldn’t ask the visual FX crew to find another way to make it work. Instead they would quit the show. This is the mindset we are facing today that wants to see every little flaw through a microscope, and then justify as a reason to overthrow the system. It is the old Hegelian Heresy…thinking the only way forward is through conflict. But we don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Maybe we can simply drain the dirty water, feed the baby, and search for better soap.
Issachar Creatives know the power of a God who redeems, instead of destruction. The God who redeemed his own people, and redeems men and women today is the one who redeems entire cultures and even nature (Romans 8:22). Our creativity should seek to echo this aspect of God’s nature, painting pictures of redemption, writing stories of forgiveness, and creating music about reconciliation.
Listening to Our Savior and Loving Our Neighbor
Any politician or political ideology that calls on you to despise another person is not from Christ. Jesus called us to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. That doesn’t mean we need to agree with them or affirm their viewpoint, but we cannot demonize and hate those with whom we disagree. So many people using the term “phobia” want to tell us that we fear and hate what we disagree with. This is a cheap shot, which is dishonest and inflammatory. People have always been able to disagree and yet appreciate one another. This ability to “love our neighbors and even our enemies” is at the heart of the gospel.
To be very precise, we cannot accept hate toward minorities in our country for any reason, whether they are African American, Latin, Asian, or native American or any other minority. We are all made in God’s image. At the same time, we cannot demonize white people just for being white. This is to pour guilt and shame on someone instead of loving them. To hate anyone is to abandon the gospel completely. This is at the heart of where we as Christians must not drink the cultural Kool-Aid which is offered nightly on so many news stations and daily on social media.
We cannot allow our hearts to become bitter toward anyone. We cannot allow our friends and family to demonize others and call it good. It is evil. The Gospel never calls us to despise others nor to obsess upon our own guilt. These ideas are not Biblical.
Issachar Creatives will see these issues clearly and resist cultural memes that distort these truths. They will discern the errors, avoid them, and lead a new path towards honesty, and charity.
The Call for Godly Creatives: Seeing The Way Forward
The Sons of Issachar had a talent and a level of wisdom that was unique. They saw and understood what others overlooked. Our culture needs women and men with this wisdom today. Not only wisdom that comes from analysis, but also wisdom like Solomon that comes from knowing God, and loving our neighbors.
We need creatives who will inspire and persuade. We need new metaphors, new stories, and new models for leading people away from our cultural insanity, and back to a model of human flourishing. Naturally, such a model will point us to Christ, for there is no true human flourishing apart from our Savior. All other models are a façade or a mirage.
If God ordained Bezalel to inspire His people and shape their culture as the children of God, what artists will He use in our era to shape our culture? What men and women will help us have ears to hear and eyes to see the love of Christ and the sovereignty of God in a fresh way. Is God calling you? Is He calling a gathering of artists like some of those we meet with in L.A.? Or maybe those in Austin, Atlanta, New York, Nashville or in cities around the globe?
God is sovereign, the gates of Hell are no match for his plans. God will win, but he wants to use creatives like you and me to open eyes and hearts. Are you praying and listening to His voice? Are you willing to paint, write, or perform whatever He calls you to create? Will you obey His call? My prayer and hope is that these new sons and daughters of Issachar will rise up in obedience to God, warning us of the dangers, and pointing us in the way we should go to love and follow our savior faithfully.
What is Your Response?
The Sons of Issachar knew how to lead God’s people towards hope, unity and shalom. Where are the artists today speaking to the culture in such a way – The Issachar Creatives. Is this your calling? Are you willing to speak out and challenge people dividing the church? Are you willing to speak out against people dividing the country, or creating the chaos in which evil thrives? If the artists, who are sons and daughters of God, don’t challenge these ideas, who will?
What is your role? What part will you play? I look forward to reading your ideas down below in the comments…
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