A LITTLE CHRISTIAN OUTRAGE, PLEASE
The photograph in the Christmas exhibit is of the crucified Jesus Christ, bloodied and covered in outsized black ants. The impression I get is of a discarded toy, a relic dropped by an indolent child, left in the dirt and squalor to be trampled upon and forgotten. And yet this is what the vaunted Smithsonian Institute calls “art”. This abomination is part of the Christmas exhibit at the federally funded National Portrait Gallery, an arm of the Smithsonian Museums. The exhibit also contains self-described “homoerotic” art. I won’t go into detail but I gather from the descriptions that it is incestuous, perverse and sickening.
This is yet another frontal assault upon our Christian sensibilities in America. We’ve tolerated the portrayal of the crucified Christ in a container of urine from the “artist” Andres Serrano. In 1997 we tempered our revulsion with deep breaths and self-control when Chris Ofili, at the Brooklyn Museum, displayed a portrait of Mary, the mother of Christ, varnished with elephant crap. And now the tax-payer funded Smithsonian, which has long had a reputation as a source of enlightenment and education, has debased the most holy of Personages in a mockery which purports to celebrate the birthday of that very Being.
I am feeling somber. I am feeling angry. And I am wondering why one of the crowning characteristics of Christian believers, tolerance, has become a weapon against the God whom we worship and a conduit for ridiculing the most tender sentiments we hold in our hearts. One of the possible answers lies in the confidence engendered by Christian teachings. We tend to have faith that all things ultimately are at the Lord’s command. We may be attacked, persecuted and maligned, but there is eternal mercy and justice awaiting if we hold true to our Christian covenants. That attests a confidence that is lacking in one who cannot see a life, or consequences, beyond the Earthly Realm. We can take the abuse and contempt because we know, that in the end, amends will be made and we will be accountable only for our trespasses. Another reason for our acquiesence may be that we “turn the other cheek.” Now in my opinion, and let me make this clear, in MY opinion, the directive from Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek when smitten by one’s enemy, is applicable mostly in personal relationships and bespeaks the toleration of insult not from nation to nation or abuser to victim, but from person to person, where repentance and forgiveness may be worked out between friends and loved ones. But we good American Christians, who by the way are still the vast majority in this country, can be splashed with urine, splattered with elephant dung, and bitten and eaten away by ants, and we still…turn the other cheek.
If Christians anywhere in the world reacted the way Muslims do when even the potential that their prophet, Muhammad, could be portrayed in any measure irreverently, the city of Washington DC would be ablaze at this moment, Andres Serrano would have been beheaded and Chris Ofili would have had his throat split crosswise. The distinction in tolerance between a Christian society and a Muslim society is dramatic, frighteningly so. But it is a show of strength in the Christian belief system rather than an indication of feebleness. Our levels of tolerance for derision and defilement come from a sense of invincibility, not of the flesh, but of faith in eternal life and an all knowing God.
I applaud the fact that Christian believers across the globe are tolerant; we are the most tolerant and compassionate of all societies. I am not talking about a doctrinal toleration of sin, but of a personal toleration of God’s children and a benevolent regard for individual circumstances, strengths and needs. But a little well-place outrage is not such a bad thing. Like the playground bully who beats up kids and kicks puppies simply because the neighbors are to fearful of him to complain, the anti-Christian efforts in art and culture with continue to grind religion into the ground so long as no one is there to stop them. The Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery is funded by you and me. They may believe that what they’re doing is somehow “virtuous” and “tolerant” of diverse viewpoints. But they will never know of the Christian reverence for the image of Jesus Christ and our testimony of His divinity if we don’t tell them. Maybe they would appreciate hearing from you.
Martin E. Sullivan (Director)
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