April 16, 2010

"I was appalled at the sexualization of Christ."

"I was horrified. I believe in freedom of expression. I believe in artistic freedom. I believe that a church is a holy place, and I certainly don’t want people telling anyone how to worship, but I was shocked, stunned, and if I hadn’t been prepared already, I think I would have just been ill.... I’m already very sensitive because of the pedophilia issue.... This doesn’t make it any better...."

See the problem?

60 comments:

Pogo said...

Holy teabag, Batman!

DADvocate said...

This reminds me of the controversy of the penis/tongue of the University of Kentucky Wildcat (scroll down and ignore the poster of Farrah Fawcett) a few years back except more obvious. It's hard to believe that no one noticed the problem with the crucifix.

Often I think people are looking too hard to find a problem, like playing songs backwards, but this jumps out at you. Eek!!

SteveR said...

Top start with, Jesus was suffering on the cross, this depiction hardly makes me imagine that sacrifice.

shoutingthomas said...

The desire to shock has become so boring.

How many times in my 60 years on this earth has somebody tried to shock me with their depiction of Christ?

I don't think it's possible to count.

For the shock to work, somebody's got to be outraged. Anybody out there outraged?

Not me. My religious faith is private. Whether or not somebody else approves or disapproves is irrelevant. My relationship with Christ is not going to change because some dimwit wants me to be shocked.

Five minutes from now, I'll forget this "controversy."

In fact, controversy has become a preposterous bore. How many controversies are we treated to every day?

We're suffering from a serious controversy glut. When a new controversy appears every 30 seconds, is that controversy really controversial or is it just a blip on the radar?

Yawn.

Chris said...

Yeah, well it's not like you need to squint your eyes and hold it up to the mirror before you go, "OHHHH, Now I see it." Pretty crass. But I guess that's what passes for pushing the envelope these days. Please just tell me the artist didn't get a grant. In Canada, that would be a rhetorical question of course...

MadisonMan said...

My favorite comment from elsewhere on this topic: Christ is risen

shoutingthomas said...

Perhaps the next appearance of Christ will absolve us from the new Original Sin, racism.

Awareness of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is no longer our Original Sin.

Apparently Obama isn't the new Christ, because electing him didn't absolve us of our sin of racism.

Can anything free us awful white men from Original Sin?

Well, yes. Apparently, you can be absolved if you spend all your days hectoring the other sinners about their evil ways.

This is the theory of AlphaLiberal. He is not a sinner like the rest of us because he spends all his time condemning us for our sins. He hurls fire and brimstone down upon us wretched sinners from the heights of his incredible sanctimony.

God bless you, AlphaLiberal, for condescending to flog us sinners.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Honestly, even as a Christian this stuff doesn't even faze me anymore. I've just come to accept the hypocrisy of those who have no problem offending Christians yet will denounce those as racists that have the gall to draw a picture of Mohammed with a bomb on his turban.

Joseph said...

My first reaction was a yawn. Yes, its tacky and absurd but if you're sensitive about religion or sex, its pretty easy to avoid consuming this kind of art. Who cares if someone else someplace else enjoys making or consuming it. People are so eager to find a way to be deeply offended victims of some force in society.

But then after finding an article on it (there is no link here) I saw that this is a ten foot tall crucifix still hanging over the alter in a Catholic Church. LOL!

Michael said...

What would be really shocking would be to see one of these brave artists do this exact cool and brave thing with an image of the prophet fucking Mohamed, the dickhead who dreamed up Islam.

pinkmonkeybird said...

It doesn't seem to be anatomically correct placement. No, it's not what it seems at first impression. That's only his abdominal cavity.

Next!

Larry J said...

The desire to shock has become so boring.

Indeed. These so-called artists think they're being daring by offending the faith of several hundred million Christians. If they want to show how daring they are, why don't they do something that offends Islam?

We know the answer - if they offend Islam, someone is likely to want to kill them. No, they aren't daring, they're just going for cheap shock value.

Paddy O. said...

There is a liturgical and theological aspect of the attempt to shock that's worth noting.

Luke 22:63-65 "Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, 'Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?' They kept heaping many other insults on him."

Christian art, for the most part, has sanitized the crucifixion. Included, at occasionally times, indications of the physical agony, but not been very good at the emotional, social, or spiritual realities. We want a Jesus who was sacrificed, but not really one who experienced shame, hurt, rejection, dismissal, mocking.

Only all that's there in the text. The emotional and social realities just as, and maybe even more, striking than the physical, in the context.

What did Jesus do? Let it all be heaped on him. What do Christians do? Try to pull out the sword and strike off the ears of those who dare misuse our dear little Jesus.

So, the insults, the misuse, the crass representations that signify so much about the artist's own personality and interests of contemporary culture (including that within the church--even Gibson couldn't show a historically accurate, naked Jesus).

We stare at what interests us, absurdly fixated on our taboo, missing the fact this man is being crucified, responding with intentional silence to the mocking mistreatment.

Where does our interest turn? That's maybe something that a piece of art like this exhibits more than the usual docetic depictions.

What did Jesus do? He suffered and he died.

But that's not the end of the story.

Ann Althouse said...

"But then after finding an article on it (there is no link here) I saw that this is a ten foot tall crucifix still hanging over the alter in a Catholic Church."

Sorry. That was an oversight.

And, yes, you do need to read the article to see the extent of the problem.

traditionalguy said...

So what is being shocked here? Maybe the "sex is evil" training of the youth by Orthodox Priests? The shock would then be that Jesus of Nazareth was 100% man, but as he grew in grace and truth he had remained obedient to His Father's Torah. That is not impossible, and it is Christian doctrine that Jesus humbled himself and learned obedience thru what he suffered, and that he therefore did not have spot or blemish at his crucifiction offering of himself in our place at age 33. To be the Priest that made that final offering of himself as victim in our place, Jesus had to have 100% complete, funtional body parts and be free from personal sin. That's the rules.

ET1492 said...

If it is a penis, and not just ab muscles, it appears to be uncircumsized. A mistake by the artist? A further slight? An attempt to mask his subversion since a mushroom-shaped glans would be to obvious?

Pinkmonkeybird, I think you're right. Sometimes a misshapen torso is just a misshapen torso.

Not a penis.

George Grady said...

Here's a picture of the original San Damiano cross.

Fred4Pres said...

The original this is based on has the same "abs" but they are not as shaded as these are. As obvious as this is, my guess is this was not intended.

Paddy O. said...

"And, yes, you do need to read the article to see the extent of the problem."

The comments too are helpful... now that I've read the whole article.

Illustrates a common human trend to assume others are guilty of what you happen to perceive. All while dismissing any notion that you're the one perceiving it in this way. It's always the other, who offends the observant innocent.

Makes me think of current attacks against certain political movements.

Offense is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder, in our era, is king.

Moose said...

*Sigh*

If it was a true piece of medieval art, then I'd say - what's the issue? However considering this was a contemporary artist and know what they were doing, I'd have to call bullshit on this as artistic license. Or as an appropriate symbol of the new gay Catholic church.

Waiting for Sully to weigh in on this one...

Theo Boehm said...
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EDH said...

If accurately depicted, I see a lawsuit against the makers of the original Ab-Flex.

Or at least a good smote.

ET1492 said...

George, thanks for the image link. Now that I've read the article and seen the image of the original San Damiano Cross, I'm certain the artist was sincere.

When I first saw the image in Ann's post, I didn't notice anything untoward. But after reading the first few comments here I noticed the problem and then couldn't look at the icon without seeing a penis, though I still didn't believe it was intentional.

I wonder how many people in the 12th century, when the San Damiano Cross was painted, would have interpreted that particular shape as a penis.

Superdad said...

Okay - what am I missing? All this is is a story about an artist who did a really bad job of trying to paint an icon. Its not subversive - its a terrible attempt at painting distended bowls - nothing more.

TMink said...

I am with Hoosier, while the image is offensive, it is also boring. Another person attacking the Messiah, ho hum.

What is more interesting is the increase in anti-Christian sentiments across the board. Interesting days are ahead, but not particularly pleasant days.

Trey

E.M. Davis said...

"scroll down and ignore the poster of Farrah Fawcett)"

That's a hard poster to ignore.

Joan said...

I'm disheartened by the number of people commenting here, and at the news story, attacking the artist, who is well-respected and has pieces in churches around the world. The icon is a faithful reproduction of the San Damiano cross, which you can see by clicking on the links others have already provided in this thread. Do you think the crucifix was installed without any ever seeing it first? I'm sure it went through dozens of viewings and, since the people who approved it had the original image in mind, the question of the penis never occurred to them. The fact is, it's not obvious if you're familiar with iconography. Once someone makes the observation, though, it's awfully hard to get rid of that association.

traditionalguy said...

Is it also appalling to render the crucified Jesus as the Romans really did the job on him...naked as a jaybird to heighten the shame factor of a man dying helplessly in public while being poked by sticks by perverted sadists from the mob, while being mocked for not saving himself. It is silly to sanitize that. Jesus is the God/Man who finished it right. All later super pius sanitized crucifix images are only church souvenirs.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I wonder how many people in the 12th century, when the San Damiano Cross was painted, would have interpreted that particular shape as a penis.

Maybe abs developed over a few hundred years since Michaelangelo had a different way of portraying them.

Geoff Matthews said...

This is an argument for iconoclasm.

Paddy O. said...

"The fact is, it's not obvious if you're familiar with iconography."

This raises a good point. Is iconography iconic if it is continually saddened by a lack of familiarity with iconography?

If it's not iconic, is it serving its role as an icon?

Or has it become mere decoration?

Were icons intended with the assumption of an understanding of art history?

By the by, I agree that the artist did not intend the salacious observation.

WV: hyptoci
People who are offended by something in church, but indulge in it outside.

Chip Ahoy said...

I was always distracted in church. I'd sit there thinking, "boy, Jesus sure had great abs."

jimspice said...

"...now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi."

A really spooky place. Every hour, a seemingly centuries-old nun, draped head to toe in loose-woven muslin, emerges into a iron gated room, and proceeds to flog herself with the shorn hair of St. Claire, moaning in agony.

And, oh yeah, you guys have dirtly minds.

Methadras said...

Yawn... Wow, Jesus has a big crank. He's God for Christ's sake, he should have a huge unit. Titus is salivating right now isn't he. I'm sure he is looking for a way to convert right now so he can get near Jesus' huge hog.

Methadras said...

Holy nads, Batman. I just realized that Little Miss Sullivan has a new reason to become faithful again.

William said...

My guess is that in the 12th century the phallic imagery was subliminal and that that subliminity gave the icon its power. In our era, the image is no longer subliminal, and the overt sexuality weakens its power.

edutcher said...

Sounds like another Lefty priest trying to be hip (anybody remember the Rev Scot Sloane, "the swinging young priest who talks to the young", from very early Doonesbury?). He did this by getting an idiot artist to make something controversial and claim it's all part of tradition. From the article, it sounds like the parish is hemorrhaging members.

Frankly, I'd love to know the percentage of this type of "clergy" (Lefty, not Catholic) involved in the child abuse cases. The Chicago archdiocese was big in this and they gave us theological lights as Charles Fleger and Andrew Greeley.

David said...

See the Problem?

"The crucifix is about 10 feet tall. It has been hanging above the altar since Feb. 21." (Emphasis added)

Talk about well hung! That's a three foot penis.

David said...

SteveR said...
"Top start with, Jesus was suffering on the cross, this depiction hardly makes me imagine that sacrifice."

For those who do not like the overall icon, remember that this is a copy of a 12th Century item.

c3 said...

Most concerning aspect of the story:
Monsignor Edward Weisenburger of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese also said he has no problems with the crucifix. He said the archdiocese has received no complaints about it.

And further concerning aspect follows immediately:
However, numerous current and former church parishioners contacted The Oklahoman this week expressing outrage at what many called a "pornographic” depiction of Jesus. Many asked that their identities be withheld.

Is the church that tone deaf?

David said...

It's a pretty faithful copy of the original.

To those who think 12th Century humans were unable to discern a penis in the original . . . .Well, if you say so. Very doubtful that these parishioners are the first to notice. Perhaps they are just the first to complain.

ET1492 said...

Seems the original has detractors as well:

#1 – World Famous San Damiano Crucifix and The Bigallo Crucifix Exposed as Sexual Fraud

The San Damiano is the crucifix that St. Francis “prayed to” thereby misinterpreting the real and true original message from Christ, forcing Jesus to send another message to correct St. Francis. Now you know why. It’s time to take a deep breath, and to see it perfectly explained and extracted for yourself, right before your eyes.

Michael A. Calace and Dr. Wilson Bryan Key decipher these legendary crucifixes originally from the Middle Ages, in plain sight, and explain how the human eye and brain relates to a person’s conscious and sub-conscious mind, as both experts utilize professional narration & brilliant motion graphic extraction analysis.

The Result: The incredibly blasphemous San Damiano Crucifix is still one of the biggest sellers in Conciliar Church /Novus Ordo Church history, routinely venerated by leaders, as it continues reproduction as crucifixes, jewelry and reprints throughout the world despite the obvious fact that it is a fraudulent, blasphemous crucifix containing embedded sexual imagery, which is impossible to deny.

William said...

It would be a phallacy to say that 12th century parishioners did not see the sexuality in the image. It must be said, however, that phallic symbols aint what they used to be. I'm of the opinion that nowadays the penis is an important part of every man's home entertainment system. As such it's recreational, not procreational, purpose is paramount. I'm not a scholar of this subject but my guess is that 12th century worshippers would be more inclined to see such a symbol as representing the fecundity, power, and abundance of God than for its porno import. If, however, further research shows that St. Theresa underwent her rapture while worshipping at this altar, we should all reconsider our criticism.

lemondog said...
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Theo Boehm said...
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Synova said...

I think that the stylized art this is taken from actually does a good job at showing the physiology of a stomach. Trying to say that any of it is supposed to look like a penis is stretching. There is a lot of old art that just out and out includes male parts and they just don't look like that. I doubt anyone contemporary to when the first paintings were made, looking at the paintings with the little round tummy and the separated area below the rib cage, would think "penis!"

Someone who was familiar with pictures like this one would recognize the stylized stomach as a stomach.

It seems reasonable to assume that the artist did not intentionally make the stomach seem phallic, but was, as one commenter suggested, hampered by the size of the painting and the perspective while working on it.

Freeman Hunt said...

Distended abs. People need to stop seeing penises everywhere.

Or why not simply:
"His abs kind of look like a big penis."
"Ha. Yeah, but they're just abs."
"Yeah."

Or are we all tweens, unable to stop giggling, or carbons of "The Church Lady," unable to stop gasping, at our sophomoric imaginings?

Dudley said...

This is not a penis on his abdomen. It's obvious it's just a representation of Christ's distended stomach-look at any Catholic or Orthodox icon you'll see much of the same kind of distention. If church goers at this church are really offended at an icon of Christ on the cross it is fairly obvious that the church will be much stronger without them. Going to church is about having communion with your fellow believers and the benefits that come through this in our communication with God. If these guys are distracted or appalled by an icon as they are listening to their preacher/priest it's obvious their missing the point of being there in the first place. Go have some reflection time about wither or not you are a Christian.

pduggie said...

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

ET1492 said...

We have been overexposed to Freudian art criticism and pornography.

Paddy O. said...

"To those who think 12th Century humans were unable to discern a penis in the original..."

People have always seen such things. Any given era, there's symbols and there's awareness of the symbols.

If anything they likely giggled more in earlier eras. But they were also a lot more silenced.

Such noticing can be a lot more public in our Vatican II era.

bagoh20 said...

I always thought it would be larger.

themightypuck said...

This morning the face of Jesus appeared in my toast.

Methadras said...

Freeman Hunt said...

Distended abs. People need to stop seeing penises everywhere.


This diatribe is unconvincing to Titus and DTL would just call you a phallicphobe. :D

Dust Bunny Queen said...

See the problem?


The artist misplaced his dick? The proportions are all off.

Oh...you mean something else?

Helen said...

I don't see a dick—in fact, I'd like to think I know a dick when I see one. It looks like a badly misplaced bow tie for the loin cloth cuz the fabric looks like the descending stripes. But what do I know?

We Christians like to forget that Jesus had a dick; we shouldn't. The first Adam's sins could only be redeemed by the second Adam's sinless perfection. A Christ with a dick should not offend us; it should remind us that Jesus was a man in all points, He was like us in all things, but without sin.

I would imagine that an anatomically correct crucifix hanging in a church would be quite appropriate; it would serve as a reminder that fidelity and obedience to God is possible in Christ. That's something all people, not just priests, need to remember.

Synova said...

"If anything they likely giggled more in earlier eras. But they were also a lot more silenced."

It depends on when it was and where it was and the social standing of the people because sex wasn't always considered all that important... sort of like how we fail to become all worried about the sin of gluttony or sloth even though those things are listed in a way that suggests they are equivalent to sexual sins or stealing and lying.

It's not a constant progression from old times of repression and hiding sexuality to the modern era. It goes in cycles. Even in times of profound religious fervor the people, even the theologians, might be what we'd consider "earthy".

peter hoh said...

Joan wrote: I'm disheartened by the number of people commenting here, and at the news story, attacking the artist, who is well-respected and has pieces in churches around the world.

What, you want people to give up the opportunity to trot out their knee-jerk, uninformed reactions?

kentuckyliz said...

To the pure, all things are pure.

Suburbanbanshee said...

What I don't understand is why the artist doesn't just repaint his crucifix to make the shading a little softer and alter the proportions of the muscles. Artists are supposed to know how to draw things so that you see what they want you to see. If they're seeing something else, it's his fault. So he should take responsibility and fix it.

"Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?" is not supposed to be a dichotomy for an artist.