(This interview was originally meant to run only in Ubiquitous Magazine on AnnetteTrucke.com. However, Brian S. Chan’s interview is one I strongly desire to share as broadly as possible. Let’s follow suit in our own pursuit identifying beauty and walking in its ways! ~Annette Trucke)
Interview with Brian S. Chan by Annette Trucke
February 6, 2017 Release
I’ve always been drawn to it. Most are. Yet, sometimes we lack the context or verbiage to be more aware of what we are drawn to. And then, along with van loads of creative and colorful Hollywood Prayer Network leaders from around the world, I found myself inside a room on a Hollywood studio lot with Brian S. Chan as the lecturer. He brilliantly opened one new window after another: creativity, beauty, joy, God’s delights—not new concepts but new window frames and clarity of vision.
This is why I brought you here in words, to introduce you to someone who is a bit of a forerunner, one who dares not to compete or hold for himself all he has assimilated in life, but one who desires to share. Meet, Brian S. Chan.
- When you only have a couple of minutes to let someone know who you are, what do you say?
I am a pastor, professor, speaker on creativity, author, artist, martial artist, fight choreographer, husband, foster and adoptive father, and Lead Creative Steward of Creativity Catalyst. My life-motto is, “I exist to create beauty.” I strive for the portfolio of my life to be an agent of God’s beauty in the world.
- I heard you speak at an event. It was a shortened seminar which impacted my life. Can you give us a bite of what you taught?
The seminar “Beauty in Story” is about understanding the trans-cultural objective qualities of beauty in the universal plot structure of story, in order to create and seek stories that affect people on a soul-level for the good.
- You live in Southern California and lead a full life. What is life like for you in a normal week—you and your family?
My week begins with a Sabbath (Monday). Starting from a point of “rest” to enjoy the work of God means I begin my own work from a source of grace. Sunday and Tuesday through Friday are my workdays to direct Creativity Catalyst. I teach at Biola all-day on Friday. Thursday and Sunday evenings are my kung fu training times with my students, where I run a private, word-of-mouth Wing Chun kung fu studio. Scattered throughout the week, I have early morning writing times and late night drawing/painting times. Saturdays are my family days generally, unless there is a work event. We fully harness the advantages of the Southern Cali life, excursions to the beach, LA Zoo, Long Beach Aquarium, Legoland, Universal Studios, Carlsbad, San Diego, San Diego Safari Zoo, Disneyland, comic conventions, and evening strolls on a greenbelt in the middle of winter.
- Tell us about your books?
The Purple Curtain: Living Out Beauty in Faith and Culture from a Biblical Perspective was a work that emerged from my thesis work at Dallas Seminary and several years of teaching and further research at Biola University. At the heart of the book is a discovery of God’s beauty that arrests us to love him fervently, be transformed into beauty by his artistry, and be on a quest to create beauty in the world as his stewards of grace. I feel that this book has been and will always be one of my most meaningful creations in my life.
Not Easily Broken is a novel about a widowed father trying to rescue his abducted daughter while he has his angry teenage son with him. As a communications engineer by day and a martial arts instructor by night, he will have to employ his skills to find his daughter, solve problems and fight against enormous odds. The story is about how we journey through the valleys of pain in the journey of life.
- If you weren’t such a humble guy this question may be easier but what work or accomplishment in the area of living out beauty and/or your faith is the most brilliant (to you)?
This really is a soul-searching question for me, because while some beauty is inherently given, much of beauty has to be fought for. Creating beauty mirrors God’s work of forging cosmos out of chaos. Like an artist laboring over a painting, beauty comes with sacrifice, investment, and transformation. I see myself in the thick of this labor, both as someone who is being formed and as one who forms.
But as this question has prompted me to reflect on particular products in beauty, I feel both my books satisfy “brilliance,” especially The Purple Curtain. Along with that, are the numerous classes I’ve taught at Biola over the past 11 years on a theology of beauty. I recall the students who tell me at the end of the semester or years later how much their new understanding of beauty has impacted them. I have certain teaching lessons on a love for God that are brilliant. Creativity Catalyst is young and has yet to truly reach brilliance, but the vision for it, which is “to cultivate creativity for the good of human flourishing,” is brilliant and I can’t wait to see it fully manifested. Lastly and perhaps the deepest for me, foster fathering two baby boys and adopting the second is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever been given the honor of doing. Nothing compares to taking these boys from broken conditions and watching them physically and spiritually transform as my wife Ellen and I apply our love, creativity, and nurturance to their healing and growth. These things are brilliant to me not by the measures of stardom, because nothing I’ve done is famous, but by their resonance with the glory and beauty of God.
- What sort of people are really connecting with your message and running with it (along with me)?
I think it’s people like in the film, “The Matrix,” people who have been living life but sense that there’s something else out there, something far more real than the humdrums, facades and norms they’ve faced in daily society, but they just don’t know exactly what it is yet. My message has been about a true love, a true beauty, and a true redemption – the very things that I believe we yearn for in the depth of our souls. Christians and non-Christians fit this bill, I found. I’ve recently come to see myself as Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation. When people come-and-go to my bar, I help to soul-search and point the way.
- What is your favorite Bible verse presently?
Matthew 22:37-40: 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c i 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d j 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”k (NIV)
- If you had a mic and you wanted to share your main message with 500 million people or so, what would you say?
My main message is about love. Love makes sense of all things in life and makes all things in life worth it. Without love, you may have everything but everything is empty. Love needs an object. The greatest love that’s most avant garde is not of self, money or even another. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” said Jesus (Matt. 22:37-40). Replete throughout the Bible are visionary portrayals, descriptions, and metaphors of God’s beauty. The Word of God wants you to encounter the beauty of God, that is ultimately manifested in Christ Jesus. There’s a practically spiritual reason for it. Beauty and love go together like a bee and a sunflower. The beauty of an object enlivens in us a love for the object. Love is automatic from beauty. The discovery of God’s beauty births a fiery love for God. It’s not unlike finding the love of your life. When you first recognized the beauty of that person, you couldn’t help but fall madly in love with him or her. The attraction was like gravity. When love is first, morality, discipline, purity, discipleship, and many other spiritual matters fall into place. For instance, morality is no longer merely about a list of do’s and don’ts or right and wrong. Rather, I have a compelling drive to not sin because I love God, and by sinning, I grieve God. In the same way, I would not cheat on my wife or I would willingly do the dishes, because I love my wife. When this love for God permeates through all areas of life, whether religious, financial, vocational, relational, or recreational, a love for the Creator who first loved us beyond our imagination becomes the drive and definition for all things we do. Living then is no longer merely about survival, making ends meet, social accolades, or human accomplishments, even though these things have their values. Living is about loving. I love God with my thought-life. I love God when I get up each morning even when I don’t feel like it. I love God with my finances and possessions. I love God when I’m having a fight with my wife and angry thoughts enter my head, but I’m compelled to treat her with respect and humbly seek peace. I love God with my very presence on Earth. Regular encounters with God’s beauty helps to love God regularly. In this regularity, a love for God while it is extraordinary becomes our new ordinary.
When the greatest commandment to love God is upheld, the second has to follow – love others as one self. A love for God spews out from the private, religious realm between me and him to the public, social realm between me and others. My love for God naturally should foster in me a genuine, selfless love for others. A love for others is the seed for change in the world. When we begin with sincere and radical love for others, be it your neighbor or the hungry child across the world, we embark on a path of healing and redemption for the good of the world. Without a love for others we seek to better our own private worlds. With a love for others, we seek to the better the world. So a fervent love for God has to lead to bettering the world. These two commandments go together. If you have a love for God but not others, your love is hypocritical. If you have a love for others but not God, your love is idolatrous. These two commands of love, that go together, makes sense of life. For Jesus said that on these two commands that all the other laws hang (22:40).
The third and last point to drive home is this love for God is supposed to take place on the highest caliber, a love that involves all of your heart, soul and mind. It’s not a flimsy, seasonal or mediocre love. It is a love that is passionate, devoted, and relentless. It is a love that we would call, “All-in.” There is no room for reservations. This is a love that calls for you to invest yourself, give of yourself and pour yourself with abandon. You might think this sounds draining. Assuming you’re in a healthy relationship setting, have you ever fallen totally in love with someone before? Imagine what it is like? Or have you seen it in the movies? No matter how many bouquets you’ve given, how many cards you’ve written, how many favors you’ve done, or how many mixed tapes you’ve made, there will always be one more. You never tire of it. That’s the remarkable thing about this love. Love is about giving of yourself that somehow replenishes you. Your giving to someone you love fills you with satisfaction and fulfillment. The most rewarding and soul-satisfying thing you could do in life is to love God. A fear of love or a reservation to love God leaves us in want. We can never gain enough in life until we have fully given in love.
A full-surrender kind of love for God will seem insane to the world but will be the most sensible thing to do when you regularly bask in the beauty, glory, honor, and majesty of God. You find yourself saying, “Of course, I love you.”
- Favorite restaurants, beaches, things to do?
At the end of the day, I love playing with my son, connecting with him and watching him laugh. I look forward to it like it’s both a reward after a day’s journey and as a conclusion that puts a day’s strife into perspective. I love family days with my wife and son. A favorite pastime of mine is spending a few hours early in the morning writing fiction over a cup of cappuccino at a warm and creative coffee shop with character (Bricks and Scones, Romancing the Bean, Aroma Café). I love to draw and paint, allowing my mind to wander, focus, and meditate. I love practicing Bak Mei Fist (kung fu) in a meadow, at the beach in front of a vibrant ocean, or on my patio in Burbank at sunset. I love long walks and drives talking to God.
- Who are the most influential thinkers (any time period) and relevant cultural influencers presently?
Influential thinkers to me are Augustine, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, C. S. Lewis, Antony Flew, Timothy Keller, and N. T. Wright.
Present cultural influencers: Makoto Fujimura, Tebow, and Denzel Washington, particularly with some of the films he’s made in the past 10 or so years.
Thank you, Brian for taking time to share with us! I will be re-reading your words, time and again as others will be also, I am quite sure. Blessings to you and yours! ~Annette Trucke
You can connect with Brian’s work on BrianSeeChan.com and follow his blog, connect and follow in social media, and buy his books!