Home Content Writing Jerry Hopkins: Writing art | Opinion

Jerry Hopkins: Writing art | Opinion


Art and artists are important in life. Unfortunately art, especially “the high arts,” can often be pushed aside in our lives and given little support financially or personally. When there are economic difficulties in most parts of the world, you will find two things that suffer — the church (religion) and the arts (particularly what I’m terming as “the high arts” — painting, sculpture, poetry, classical music, writing).

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We ought to consider the value of these “high arts,” but also others related to art — novels, short stories, essays, the theater, the cinema, popular music, dance, posters, even flower arrangements. Our individual lives can be seen as works of art.

I have always found Francis Schaeffer’s little book that was published in 1973 titled “Art and the Bible” as one of the most important of his works. He argues for the value and virtue of arts, particularly for Christians. In this work he wrote, “In fact, there is a real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art. Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life.” So art is a vital part of all our lives and should manifest, not just who we are and what we find most important in life, but also how we relate to the God who made us, gifts us and inspires us to create and express ourselves.

All of us, Christian and unchristian folks, should consider the value and virtue of art, how we can engage with arts and artists, appreciate the fine arts in all area, both “high” and “popular” arts. For many years one of the important events associated with our community and region was the East Texas Christian Writers Conference sponsored by East Texas Baptist University and the Marshall Regional Arts Council. From its founding around 2002 by a group of faculty in the School of Humanities through about 2015, it impacted many people who participated and benefited from its presentations and workshops. There were novelists, poets, essayists, communicators, reporters, editors, journalists and writers who came to share in this day and a half meeting.

Not long ago I received a novel by Daisy Ruth Oñate Sohne titled AN ADVENTURE WITH ABBA FATHER — The Call to Pickings. Daisy was a faithful attender of the conference for many years that drew people from over 20 states and touched thousands of lives. Daisy was one author who greatly benefited from these conferences. In December 2021, she sent me her novel with this note enscribed – “To Dr. Jerry Hopkins, Thank you for all the time and effort you have invested in all those ETBU writing conferences. May God continue to bless you and yours.” Daisy’s novel is proof of the value and virtue of such conferences that ETBU in cooperation with others in our community once contributed.

Author Sohne understands and carefully portrays the subtle and often successful strategies of evil using influential people in both church and community. She shows through the eyes and experiences of a little 10-year-old girl the persuasive arguments and actions of intrigue and sinful individuals.

Sohne builds her stories in such a way they blend into the larger drama she is creating. She deftly welds them in such a pattern while gripping your attention to see God’s work and witness expressed all through the eyes, ears and mouth of a little girl Tirara Joy (TJ). She describes the church accurately from members to missions, the gospel good news to the worldly gossip, and from youthful to elderly interactions, preaching to praying, from mice to meanness; all in the thinking of TJ.

In one chapter, the author opens with TJ’s preacher father stating from the pulpit — “A beautiful church building without power is as useless as a tooled leather saddle without a horse.” Many such expressions reveal the power of this novel to teach and guide the readers in pursuing God’s will and work. The emphasis on how God speaks to us in Scripture and in relationships is carefully handled in the thinking of a little girl. Daisy deals with prayer and spiritual dynamics associated with that discipline, all through the thinking of a child who knows God and trusts His work and witness in the power of the Holy Spirit.

This novel is a good “teaching tool” for both young and old reading it. Daisy’s chapter on “friends” is a good example in this regard. In other places she deals with anti-semitism and the historical fact that God isn’t done with the Jews. The author deals with the fact that not just white folks struggle with racism and ethnic issues, but so do Black folks. She presents this matter in describing TJ’s visit to her friend’s Black church, resulting in one lady asking, “What’s she doing here?” and another asking, “Why ain’t she with her own kind?”

The author appropriately deals with a child’s fears of family break-ups, divorce, immorality and the consequences for both adults and children. How these tragedies affect the life of church and friendship is powerfully handled. The impact of betrayal, marital and friendship betrayal, is graphically depicted through the developing narrative. Seen through the eyes of a child simply and sorrowfully portrays the impact of evil talking and evil acting on children, families and churches. Sohne weaves into her narrative some history of camp meetings and “circuit riding preachers” as she presents her compelling story through TJ’s expressions.

In a chapter dealing with flies and mice and preaching and praying, Daisy inserts a word about “speaking in tongues.” TJ’s father had hoped to have six pastors for a prayer meeting in the Baptist church parsonage. The only one that showed up was Pastor Sebastian. As the prayer meeting developed, Sebastian started praying in an “unknown tongue.” TJ’s father stopped him, saying, “Brother, I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Sebastian replied that he didn’t either because the Bible says that “he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks to God. You may not understand me, but in the Spirit, I’m speaking mysteries.”

This controversy caused me to recall similar conversations and disagreements in my past. Even the use of the word “unknown” in the King James Version (KJV) must be understood. It is italicized because it was not in the original Greek text, but was an effort on the part of the translators to explain what was involved in glossalia, what today in the old KJV is termed as “speaking in an unknown tongue.” In my own experience the thought came in regards to this experience many years ago — if God speaks to us in a language which we understand, why must we speak to Him in a language which we do not understand?”

This is a marvelous novel compelling one to think and study about critical and vital issues we all face today.

— You can send your thoughts to drjerryhopkins@yahoo.com, or by snail mail to Dr. Jerry Hopkins, P. O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671. Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired professor.

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