Deconstructing & Reconstructing Faith in an Interfaith Marriage with J Kirk Richards

Exploring Faith and Art: An Insightful Conversation with J. Kirk Richards | Men Who Love God | Skylight Spiritual Wellness

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In a recent interview, renowned artist J. Kirk Richards shared his unique perspective on faith, art, and the intertwining of the two in his life and work. As a fine artist whose style encompasses traditional religious figurative and abstract expressionist elements, Richards delved into the profound connection between his artistic practice and his spiritual beliefs.

Richards revealed that his art serves as a form of communion, a prayer for grace, and a meditation on the essence of Jesus Christ. He emphasized the evolving nature of faith, acknowledging the necessity of deconstructing and reconstructing beliefs over time. Through his personal journey, he has come to embrace uncertainty and cognitive dissonance as integral aspects of faith and the human experience.

The artist’s candid reflections also touched upon the complexities of faith within relationships, particularly in the face of diverging beliefs. He shared insights from his own experience, highlighting the importance of open communication, therapy, and mutual support in navigating such challenges. Richards expressed a deep empathy for individuals grappling with faith-related uncertainties, emphasizing that honest seekers of truth will find their unique path.

J. Kirk also emphasized the profound impact of Jesus Christ’s bravery and his revolutionary message on social justice. He spoke of his aspiration to infuse his art with a semblance of that bravery, thereby creating pieces that resonate with depth and courage. His profound admiration for Christ’s courage and revolutionary spirit serves as a driving force behind his artistic endeavors.

Ultimately, the interview with Eric and J. Kirk provides a thought-provoking perspective on the intersection of faith, art, and personal growth. It invites us all to contemplate the complexities of faith, the power of vulnerability in artistic expression, and the enduring impact of timeless themes such as bravery and social justice. His insights offer a reminder that faith is a dynamic and deeply personal journey, one that continues to evolve and inspire throughout our lives.


One of the top ones was a spouse.

Leaving a face. She didn’t feel like church is what it claims to be and that she couldn’t continue. One of my children came to us and said, I’m not going back to church. This faith that I was given as a child was built on a lot of certainties, many of which I’ve needed to let go of. It’s possible and maybe even necessary to deconstruct things to the point that a lot of who we thought Jesus was may not be the case.

You do know about art and you are a fine artist. How would you describe your style?

I would say that my style walks back and forth on a tightrope between traditional, religious figurative, and then more like abstract expressionist, religious figurative. The things that are common threads through my work are there’s usually people in them, and they often have some spiritual idea behind them.

Is it part of your practice to stay close to the divine or is it just something like an interest that you’re… Or is it both? What keeps you there and how do you feel in your daily life working on this all the time?

Yeah, I think I’ve talked in various occasions about art as being like prayer or some of my paintings being like prayer for grace or a meditation on who Jesus is. For me, making paintings is that communion. Particularly that spiritual renewal is saying, Where am I right now? I have to be a new person as I approach this new life because it’s always changing.

We held an event with all these guys that came. Everyone opened up about what they were dealing with. I was surprised that one of the top ones was a spouse leaving a face and one staying. It was a lot of guys struggling with it. I know that you’ve gone through this or are going through it a little farther down the road than some.

We were in the middle of the pandemic. One of my children came to us and said, I’m not going back to church when this is over. Amy, to her credit said, I’m going to study, first of all, study therapy, so I know how to help emotionally. I’m also going to really jump into studying church doctrines and histories and things like that so that I can answer any questions that he might have. The more that she studied, the more she was surprised and the more cognitive dissonance she felt. She just decided that she didn’t feel like church is what it claims to be and that she couldn’t continue. Was that hard for me? Yes and no. I think it was probably a little bit easier on me than maybe a lot of men out there. But because she swung past me. But she didn’t completely understand my a little bit heterodox way of being in church, of being a person of faith. But she understands that more, but maybe doesn’t understand why I still continue to hold on to specific tenants of faith. Probably the best thing for me in this experience of being married and also faith is a part of that has been therapy, like a couple’s therapy with a great therapist in which I had to face some ideas about control.

I had to have a therapist stare at me with evil eye saying, You’re not getting it, Kirk. You got to make some changes. Those changes have really made a big difference for me in the last six years. Being able to say, I don’t need to have control. If there’s something where we come up against each other, being able to work through it in healthier ways has been really important for us. I would say that a lot of those arguments are more like discussions now. We’re not so worried about the outcome. We love each other. We’re there for each other. We’ve been there for each other through a lot of stuff.

When people tell me they’ve lost faith in Christ or God or a church or something, I’m so less not affected in a way that I’m like, Oh, this is going to be… I just have so much more faith that an honest seeker of truth doesn’t have to end up where I end up, but I really feel that God has created us, knows us, and an honest seeker of truth will land in the spot where they’re.

Supposed to be. I like to try to approach faith from a way that sees a lot of perspectives because I’d grown up in a family and or maybe it’s not even my family, maybe it’s just me. The way that I internalized all of the church lessons was like, you don’t ask the question like the Prophet said it. This is perfect. Yeah. The thinking is over. In terms of my own faith, I have had to, over the years, I’ve had a very slow, steady deconstruction and reconstruction as things have come up where I’m like, I don’t really, I don’t see God in that thing. But there are other things that I do see God in. This faith that I was given as a child was built on a lot of certainties, many of which I’ve needed to let go of over the years. It’s possible and maybe even necessary to deconstruct things to the point that a lot of what we thought, who we thought Jesus was may not be the case, but also that we can choose to hold on to parts of that because it is possible to deconstruct to the point where there’s nothing to hold on to.

But I like to be able to see that perspective even while I am choosing to practice in a way that holds on to certain ideas about who Jesus was, what he represents and refocus my faith on other things. Some of those things have been community building, doing the right thing in the face of our fellow humans. Those constant challenges over the years, I guess, have enabled me to rebirth my faith in a new way.

So having that uncertainty is a real way to build, to be in faith, right?

To live that faith. Yeah, and to live with the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. All of those things are part of not only faith but just the human experience. But it’s amplified when you are in a group that has certain ideas and that coheres in specific ways.

What I’m hearing you saying is the exact opposite of staying inward and isolating yourself.

The thing is the gospel is full of its own tensions, its own contradictions, its own ways of approaching faith. You can justify a new vision of it or a different vision than the consensus, but you can do it in a way that appeals to the foundations of the consensus or the foundational scriptures. I think there are ways to talk about it even in those settings that might be a little bit more difficult as long as love is part of it.

Spoken like an artist. Dude, that’s what art is, right? Bringing new perspectives to old traditions, new ways to look at it. You put your heart into it and you get vulnerable, inviting other people to get vulnerable. You have done so much art about Jesus Christ. What’s your favorite thing about Christ? I think.

His bravery. Social justice is important to me. Imagining as best I can the time and place of his ministry and what he said and how revolutionary it was. Revolutionary to the point that ultimately his life was taken. I think that takes guts. I don’t think I’m that brave. I would like to have a piece of that bravery. I try to put a little bit of bravery in some of my artwork. And sometimes when I speak, I try to be a little bit brave.

Dude, beautiful. Dude, thank you so much. It’s been awesome.


 

 

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