“Beauty will save the world,” Dostoevsky once wrote, but often it seems that Christians forget the power of beauty to entrance and uplift. Boldly sharing the beauty of faith, with humble vulnerability, can have a transformative effect and win hearts and minds.
Anthony D’Ambrosio shares profound reflections on beauty and vulnerability, along with insights from his personal experiences, in his recent OSV Talk, “Babel to Pentecost” (available to watch on Vimeo and Facebook).
The video is one in a series of OSV Talks, which shine a light on creative means of evangelization, springing from the wisdom and deep prayer that energize these approaches. The talks, which are similar to TED Talks but with a Catholic focus, are free and available for anyone to watch at OSVTalks.com.
D’Ambrosio has a unique perspective on the power of beauty to disarm, and vulnerability to inspire confidence. A storyteller and marketing specialist, D’Ambrosio has spent the last five years studying how communities and movements come together around shared purpose. He founded Catholic Creatives, the definitive community for Catholic entrepreneurs, artists, designers, and filmmakers. Through his start-up company Sherwood Fellows, he helps leaders to understand and communicate their mission, and has participated in relaunching the brands of over a hundred organizations.
Christians often begin attempts at evangelization with an argumentative or combative approach, instead of with loving enthusiasm, D’Ambrosio says in his talk. But what a difference would be made with this simple shift in approach!
D’Ambrosio uses himself as an example of this distinction. When it came to making change and sharing truth, he said, “I realized that the problem was inside of me.”
He recalls his reaction as a young boy listening to his favorite band, Blink 182. He said, “I felt inside of me this deep truth that somehow this other person from across the world had uncovered and transferred over to me and it resonated in my whole body.”
He immediately desired to share this beauty and truth with everyone he knew. “I became a proselytizer, an evangelist, for punk rock,” he laughs. “I burned every single one of my friends a copy of the CD. I wanted to share this with the world.”
His reaction to discovering something beautiful and wonderful was a natural one. But it came in sharp contrast to his discovery of faith not long afterward.
Also as a teenager, “I had a second experience of beauty that changed my life forever, and that was an experience of Jesus at a Steubenville Conference,” he said. “I was bought in. I had an experience of God in Adoration, and I wanted to share that experience with the world.”
But instead of excitedly sharing what he’d learned with his friends, he did something very different. “What I did, when I got home, was I immediately logged onto AIM, joined a chat room, and I began to debate with all of my atheist and liberal friends about whether or not God existed,” he said.
The difference between these two responses “says a lot about how Catholics instinctively want to communicate about the faith,” he said. “We are very bad at sharing the CD of our experience. Our initial instinct is to share the sheet music and debate about how good the notes are … How did we get to this place where we have forgotten how to share the CD of the faith?”
The answers to this question, and suggestions for ways to share transformative beauty, compose much of his OSV Talk.
“Christians were once leaders of the culture, but we have lost our place as culture makers,” D’Ambrosio said in an interview with Aleteia. “My work for the last five years to change that dynamic has led me to believe that the hindrances to a new Catholic Renaissance are not what we often talk about. My journey led me to seeing that the issues are far more personal than I believed, and that only through massive changes to how I communicate, could I begin to be a part of the solution. We as Catholics need to repent of our defensiveness and begin to communicate vulnerably and artistically with each other once again before we can ever communicate well with the world at large.”
This vulnerability is a great challenge to put into practice, but it can make the biggest difference. D’Ambrosio urges honest self-examination and radical, Christlike openness. “The way out of the problem that we’re in and the darkness that we’re facing as a Church right now, the pain and conflict that we’re in … is actually going to be learning how to become vulnerable with each other again, becoming naked as Christ did, to the people we see as rivals,” he said.
He gives several examples of how Christians can channel beauty as a uniting force. “I hope that bosses begin meetings with music, and fathers begin family dinners with poetry, in order to restore intimacy through shared beautiful experience,” he says.
Most of all, leading with beauty instead of with arguments can irresistibly draw souls to God. “We need to stop engaging with the world by telling it to change and being angry when it doesn’t,” he said. “We should instead engage with the world by finding its pain points in the tangible places of our day to day lives, and begin to build Holy Spirit-inspired solutions. This exchange builds credibility, trust, and relationship. This is how we can once again lead in dialogue with the secular world, when we have solutions that are better than the ones it has.”
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