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Monday, April 18, 2011

Things We Don't Like

#1: Andres Serrano's "Immersion (Piss Christ)," a well-known photograph of a crucifix soaked in blood and immersed, as the title suggests with admirable clarity, in urine. Call us old-fashioned, but we like poetry that rhymes, and pictures painted with oil. If one must pretend that photographs are art, we suggest tasteful black-and-white studies of either a mountain range or a naked lady.

#2: The trio of thugs who took a hammer to "(Immersion) Piss Christ" yesterday, while it was on display in Avignon. Defacing art, even bad art, is generally conceded to be bad form. We disapprove in the strongest possible fashion. And while rassling with a museum guard -- another mark of exceptionally poor taste -- these particular thugs also damaged a neighboring picture. Of a nun praying.

The AP headline, at least the one running on HuffPo, claims that this was the work of "Catholics." The story doesn't offer immediate substantiation of this claim, since it doesn't identify the vandals. However, it does say this:
Young far-right Christian activists from the General Alliance Against Racism and for the Respect of the French and Christian Identity is taking the Collection Lambert to court Wednesday to try to have the crucifix photograph removed from the exhibit. The group denounced the photograph on its Web site, saying it "insults and injures Christians at the heart of their faith."
It certainly seems possible, even likely, that some of these folks decided not to wait for the law to act -- or, more likely, for the law to ignore their pathetic whinging.

So who are they? Formed in 1984, the AGRIF is a French right-wing organization, devoted to what the French Wikipedia calls "catholicisme traditionaliste." As readers surely know, this phrase is a bit tricky; it can cover anything from us at the Egg to Pope Benedict to the sedevacantist fantasies of Mel Gibson's dad. We don't know enough about it to say whether their professed Catholicism is Roman, Old, or Lefebrist.

Anyway, let's be clear about the theology. Since Latin Christianity, at least, denies that images have any particular spiritual power, apart from the wisdom they may convey or the faith they may inspire, it is simply mistaken to claim that an unfortunate representation of Jesus "injures Christians at the heart of their faith." Were that true, our religion would long ago have been destroyed by tacky Jesus art, of which there has been no shortage lo these thousand years. What in fact injures Christians is cruelty to the poor and the weak, persecution of the innocent, and the willful violation of just laws, especially when those things are done in our name.

So, the Avignonese brownshirts don't really get it about Christianity. But wait. There is one religion whose adherents seem to feel that every misrepresentation of its great hero is an assault on the faith, and a crime worthy of vigilante justice. Not Christianity, but some other world religion, with a permanent hate-on for Salman Rushdie and Danish cheese products. Hmmm. Which one are we thinking of?

Got it, AGRIF? If you are looking for a religion that will support and encourage your vandalism and assault, please leave Christianity, which does not, and make common cause with the one which is already taking over your country.

2 comments:

Fr. James of the (occasional) Tonsure said...

Anyway, let's be clear about the theology. Since Latin Christianity, at least, denies that images have any particular spiritual power, apart from the wisdom they may convey or the faith they may inspire, it is simply mistaken to claim that an unfortunate representation of Jesus "injures Christians at the heart of their faith." Were that true, our religion would long ago have been destroyed by tacky Jesus art, of which there has been no shortage lo these thousand years.

I'd thought I could at least count on you to support my overture to introduce a resolution at the synod assembly calling for the destruction of all resin religious sculptures. Guess not. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Regarding bad Jesus art: Surely you aren't referring to the painting that hangs in my living room, which caused you to declaim upon seeing it for the first time: "You know, I can't decide if that's Jesus or Jimmy Hendrix."

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