The Missing Word is a short story by Ace Moloi published by Art Fusion Literature. The foreword thereto by Mpho Matsitle is republished here.
Often times Christian literature (from poetry to gospel music all the way to film) has abandoned the demands of art by the wayside and is at best no more than a bland sermon or at worst empty ritualistic platitudes and regurgitation of scripture. One might say, just like the ministry of Ace Moloi’s ‘Major Prophet’ in this short story, there’s a case of ‘the missing word’ in Christian literature.
Moloi has always held “misgivings about the so-called Christian art.” He writes:
“To me art is art purely because it is art, without any self-cleansing disclaimer of separateness, i.e. Kingdom Poet. I love art. To a fair extent, I live art. So, when we journeyed from Bloemfontein to Randburg, north of Johannesburg, to witness the PIA Tour 2017, I was captured by a sense of apprehension, holding my breath that the highly anticipated poetry event in the Christian calendar would truly be about poetry and not just loosely selected Biblical quotes.”
Elsewhere he notes how “there’s just an overconcentration of people who namedrop God in their songs.”
Christian literature has suffered the same fate. A string of well-meaning and truly agreeable quotes and name-dropping God has come to define it. And artistry has been treated as secondary, if at all necessary.
However Christianity and art are not mutually exclusive; neither needs to suffer for the other. This is true even for any other convictions be they political, cultural or religious.
That is to say “doing it for the Lord” is not an excuse to do bad art. In any case the Lord only deserves the best from us. Nor is being ideologically kliye a get out jail free card from the unforgiving demands of art.
Anyone who’s spent any considerable amount of time in the church will know that the best preachers are artists extraordinaire of words and The Word.
Seeing that even in the ordinary cause of Christian ministry there is brilliant artistry, it is thus ludicrous for writers to hide behind the faith when called to account for bad art, extrapolating just critique of their produce as criticism (even an attack) of their beliefs.
In The Missing Word, Moloi rescues Christian literature from this rut. Like a true novelist, he takes on the subject of the (s)inner lives of miracle pastors/prophets without an ounce of preachiness, judgement or cheap moralising. He bequeaths them ambiguity and nuance.
For the close reader what cannot be missed is the strong Christian theological underpinnings of this piece of great literature.
It is not often that those who diagnose the problem offer solutions. The infamous jibe goes “those who can’t; criticize.” Moloi here demonstrates that he truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. For him, there is no missing word between competence and criticism.
To purchase the story sms SHORTY to 48748 (sms charged at R10)