Kids Need Imagination. And So Does the Church. And So Do I.

This past weekend was the Anselm Society’s big yearly conference: Your Imagination Redeemed. It was a blast–speakers and artists from across the country gathered to talk about the role of imagination in the Church.

In an effort to apply as much of what I’ve learned as possible, I’ve decided to share some initial takeaways from the big blob of information that I’m still trying to process.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Imagination is Important

It’s easy to think of imagination as a kids’ trifle. We assume the important things are verifiable, commodifiable facts. This attitude is (especially?) prevalent among evangelicals. The only real Important Things are doctrinal issues. Imagination is important, if at all, only to the extent it aids the Important Things.

One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Anthony Esolen, noted that this humans-as-robots sort of thinking isn’t actually how the world works. Yes, it’s important to teach doctrine. But what really forms us is our imagination.

If we only focus on doctrine and ignore imagination, we’ve given away the game without realizing it.

But that leads to the question of just what “imagination” is…

  1. Imagination v. Fantasy

This distinction comes from the other keynote speaker, Bishop Martyn Minns. Fantasy is inward-looking. It seeks to escape reality and retreat further inside itself. Fantasies could be about anything from fame to power to popularity to sex. The common theme is selfishness.

Imagination, on the other hand, is outward-looking. It seeks things beyond its own mind: to be a part of something bigger than it is able to comprehend, and to wonder at things greater than itself.

Obviously, it can be tough to distinguish these in practice. Which is why . . .

  1. Imagination Needs to be Formed

This lesson hit me the hardest, because it got me thinking about how easy it is for imaginations to form poorly. I’m not just talking about obvious examples of immoral entertainment. There’s also the easy and shallow stuff that we let form us gradually. Re-watching reruns on tv instead of reading a book. Reading an easily-digestible thriller rather than a book that takes actual work.

This is stuff I’m bad at. It’s also the sort of thing I’ve resolved to fix over and over again. But I’m going to try. Again. First step: reading books in the evening rather than scrolling through Twitter with the tv on. Maybe I’ll restart that copy of the Divine Comedy I bought three years ago. I think I left off around page ten…

I’ll give more conference thoughts later, but that’s enough for now. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go fight the urge to get lost in a Twitter black hole at literally this exact moment….

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The featured image on this blog post is a piece called “Western Wind” by Kristopher Orr.  It was commissioned especially for the conference, and it’s even more spectacular in person. To learn more about the piece, click here.

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