Some people thrive on being controversial. Indeed, for many, it is the only way they can make a living. The more controversial, shocking and outrageous they are, the more attention they get, and often, the more money they can make. Artists are especially prone to indulge in this.
Plenty of trendy artists who deliberately want to shock, offend and cause outrage are making a living out of this. They are getting rich by offending the sensibilities of many, and Christians are their main target of choice. And there is of course good reason for this.
When attacked, Christians don’t issue fatwas, fly airplanes into buildings, or blow themselves up in crowded market places. They are a soft target in other words, and these trendy secular artists just so love to pick on them. They know they can get away with murder here.
One of the most infamous cases of this is of course New York artist Andres Serrano and his deplorable “Piss Christ”. It is a photograph of a plastic Jesus on a cross submersed in Serrano’s own urine. Oh how trendy, how daring, how “artistic”. Just what sort of “bold statement” is this?
The truth is, this guy would not have the guts to do a “Piss Muhammad” artwork. But he is quite happy to pick on Christians. And he is especially happy to do so during the most holy of Christian holidays. Christians can pray for the guy, and even protest. But sometimes it all gets to be a bit too much.
When Serrano showcased his wretched work of “art” here in Melbourne 15 years ago, it caused plenty of controversy – as expected. Indeed, it was displayed at the tax-payer funded National Gallery of Victoria back in 1997, and plenty of attention was given to it.
Finally a few people had had enough, and some Catholic young people, aided and abetted by some righteous indignation, took a hammer to it. It was then taken off the wall and kicked. Now while I don’t normally approve of violence or the use of force in these cases, I don’t mind giving a bit of credit to these brave Catholic teenagers.
Finally somebody decided that just sitting back and doing nothing was a statement of surrender. It was tantamount to putting up the white flag and saying, ‘yes you can kick Christianity all you like, and you will never hear a peep out of us believers’.
So did Serrano learn his lesson after getting what he deserved? No way. He is still at it. Indeed, in today’s press we read that a similar thing has just occurred in France. This is how the Guardian puts it: “Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ has been destroyed by Christian protesters in Avignon, France, after weeks of protests.
“When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion. Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an ‘anti-blasphemy’ campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.
“The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph of a meditating nun, has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy’s use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year. It also marks a return to an old standoff between Serrano and the religious right that dates back more than 20 years, to Reagan-era Republicanism in the US.
“The photograph, full title Immersion (Piss Christ), was made in 1987 as part of Serrano’s series showing religious objects submerged in fluids such as blood and milk. In 1989, rightwing Christian senators’ criticism of Piss Christ led to a heated US debate on public arts funding. Republican Jesse Helms told the senate Serrano was ‘not an artist. He’s a jerk’.”
He is a jerk alright. And deliberately so. He goes out of his way to offend Christians by being as blasphemous and sacrilegious as he possibly can be – all in the name of art of course. So he is making big bucks by deliberately targeting the Christian faith.
It is nothing more than rank anti-Christian bigotry. As we all know, a so-called work of art can be used to cover a multitude of sins. And as usual, the Christophobes, libertarians and secular numbats come out in force, decrying the protestors, but not the offending artists.
Indeed, the French gallery director, Eric Mézil, called the protestors “barbarians”. Sorry, but just exactly who is being the barbarian here? Take the most sacred person in human history, and the most sacred date in the Christian calendar, and then wilfully make a blasphemous mockery of both, while raking in the dough – that sounds like barbarism to me.
It is blatant barbarism, bigotry, and arrogance. But it happens all the time. And Christians are just supposed to sit back, smile, and say nothing. Sorry, but sometimes a bit of action may not be out of place. As I say, I am not advocating Islamist-style reactions, but I wonder if Christians are far too passive, far too often.
I don’t think we are just meant to be a bunch of doormats, walked all over by any and every misotheist. Jesus was certainly no wimp when he cleansed the temple. And he will certainly be no wimp when he comes again with sword in hand to do some even bigger house-cleaning.
While using violence in this instance may not be part of the Christian calling, at least showing a bit of moral outrage might be in order. So many Christians seem to care about nothing and allow all sorts of anti-Christian bigotry a free ride.
If obvious blasphemy of the Lord Jesus Christ does not cause a Christian to be a little concerned, then it seems we have lost the plot. While we may agree to disagree as to the proper Christian response to all this, it seems one option – apathy, indifference and a ho-hum attitude – is not quite the one we should run with.