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April 28, 2005

Comments

The Commissar

Great post.

I have the highest respect for Brent. Our discussion is purely intellectual.

Maggie

"Nobody's church is under seige..." As a protestant, who does NOT believe in organized religion, I think I can be forgiven speaking for many Roman Catholic friends who definitely believe their are under seige..from a variety of fronts.

When the NEA funds an artist/art museum (Brooklyn, NY) (now this will get your blood flowing, Daniel, so read on) who display a painting of the Virgin Mary splattered with feces, Roman Catholics are upset. No other religion has to endure this type of attack.

PC has us watching every word...not to offend anyone because of religion, sexual orientation, race, etc. etc....but this is not afforded to Roman Catholics lately and no other group speaks out on their behalf.

OK, Mr. Art Expert...what sayeth thou? A lecture on free artistic expression, I fear.

Daniel

First,

Commissar, maybe "bicker" was a poor choice of words. I found both arguments to be fascinating. I did not mean to offend.

Second,

Maggie, that was what, 1996? How about bringing up Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," too? A single, talentless artist does not a siege make. All one has to do is witness the massive attention that the death of JPII was accorded, not to mention the almost non-stop coverage of Benedict XVI to know that the Catholic Church is not under siege. And I could argue that the way in which the sexual abuse scandal was handled -or not- would justify a certain amount of ridicule, if not for the church, then at least for the men who run it and reap its wealth.

But as I remember this, the artist, Chris Ofili, is a Catholic whose parents hail from Nigeria. It was my understanding that he uses elephant dung in many of his pieces as a medium, his "connection" with Africa. Now, this is not my definition of great art, but it illustrates quite poignantly the prejudices of the critics more so than Mr. Ofili's. He did not intend the dung to be an insult, but Catholics took it as such. There was a time when many Catholics were offended by a Black Madonna, also.

I agree with you in a way. The PC impulse is all too prevalent. (I believe that we are too eager to "understand" Islam, for instance. Who cares?) But Catholicism is a target because for good or ill, it is seen by many as the Mother Church - a type of proxy for all Christianity (which it itself promotes). There are many people who have big problems with Christianity and they use Catholicism as a catch-all target.

I honestly do not get the high temperatures that come when Roman Catholicism or any religion is lampooned or criticized. Catholics may be offended. That's their right. But I'm not convinced that their umbrage is out of veneration for The Virgin so much as a natural tendency to defend their faith against any criticism, real or perceived. We have no idea whether or not God is offended by Chris Ofili. Anybody who says they do, is committing blasphemy by their own definition, since no one can know the mind of God. And most Catholics didn't even bother to stop for a second and consider the possibility that the artist wasn't making the point they accused him of making. In other words, if my way of praying to God offends you, who's problem is it? Mine? What if I am completely sincere?

Now, if some sicko decides it's "art" or free expression to advocate the killing of the Pope or to characterize all Catholics as less than human then you have my complete agreement. But show me one instance in the free world where Catholics are being persecuted or kept from worshiping. Doesn't happen.

A painting or a crucifix in a jar of urine is not persecution, in my view. It's bad taste, bad manners, bad art, bad karma, whatever you wish to call it, but it's not persecution. This is one reason why I have run away from religion. Everybody's offended by something.

If I had a faith, it would be strong enough to withstand a little bit of crap every once in a while.

Sorry this is so long.

Steve

Good post Daniel,
The problem I have with "Piss Christ" and "Poop-Mary" is the government funding of this tripe. Would this "art" still be galleried without the honorarium of an NEA grant? Probably not. Does the artist have the right to produce it? Of course, and to be lambasted from all quarters for its offense. But it is the award of government funding that publicly "dignifies" it, and, acccordingly, this perceived endorsement is what fuels the high degree of public outrage.

I like your coined hyphenation, A-A. It captures the "Siamese Twin" reality of their discourse, as they I'm not sure they can be seperated and remain viable.

Bicker v. 1. to have a petty quarrel; squabble, n. 1. a petty quarrel. Your use of the word underlines your Agnostic roots. For those who "don't know" and are content with "not knowing," a verbal contest between two people who are sure they do "know" would qualify as a "bicker." Eh?
-Steve

Daniel

You're exactly right with respects to "bicker." I am content with the fact that I don't know. And believe me, there are many people around me who insist that I must make up my mind. But my mind is made up. If there is a great mystery that I am missing, then it would be revealed to me at the appropriate time. If there is no mystery, I'm not disappointed.

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