CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Shock Art and Anti-Christian Bigotry, Again

Apr 20, 2011

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.

www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/controversial-andres-serrano-photo-piss-christ-attacked-again/story-fn7euh6j-1226041944383
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/18/andres-serrano-piss-christ-destroyed-christian-protesters

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27 Responses to Shock Art and Anti-Christian Bigotry, Again

  • Maybe we should put a photo of Andres Serrano in a bucket of urine photograph it and plaster it everywhere and see if he likes it. Or would that suddenly count as defamation?
    Mario Del Giudice

  • This is an absolutely sickening ‘piece of art’. You are spot on Bill in what you said about the creation of a “Piss Muhammad” – it would definitely not be well received. I agree, we need to pray for this poor, deluded man indeed.
    Joel Hawting

  • Folks check this website out to see some righteous indignation. This lady has spunk. She stands up for truth for which there is no negotiation. She also shares her theology on God and evil, Jesus and guns, the word “holy” and the word “nice”. She stands against those who trample on the US constitution and tells those who resort to violence when their beliefs are challenged to “come and get a piece of me” then gives out her address.

    http://barnhardt.biz/index.cfm

    Keith Lewis

  • Thanks Keith

    Sounds like she wouldn’t have a problem using a hammer on Piss Christ. I could be tempted to join her in fact.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Keith,

    I like her style too. Good on her.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • I think it would be better to protest with the 26 letters of the alphabet (apologies to Marx) than with hammers, even if that is a little less dramatic. It might help create a perception that the counsel of Christians is more sane than that of their opponents. And one doesn’t need to be very creative to protest. The secularists are so crude that simply reporting the facts is enough. Take what George Weigel wrote a couple of weeks ago:

    In March, dozens of secularist student gangsters, armed with a megaphone and defamatory posters, crashed into the chapel of Madrid’s Complutense University while Catholic students were at prayer. The radicals shouted deprecations of the Church, Pope Benedict, and the Catholic clergy; several of their number, women, stood on the altar and undressed from the waste up; two of the striptease artists boasted of their lesbianism. This obscene spectacle in the Spanish capital came shortly after several Spanish churches throughout the country had been trashed.

    While I don’t recall seeing it reported in the mainstream media, I’m sure this incident received all round condemnation as being “barbarous” by the press and political leaders? If an obscure pastor can make front page news worldwide for burning a religious book, surely a striptease act performed to desecrate a church would get equal or more attention, and condemnation? Or maybe such acts are just a form of artistic expression?

    On second thoughts, arguing with a pen requires someone to print the article. So the odd stunt might actually help get some Christian letters printed? It seems to work for others.

    Samuel Ellemor

  • Not sure about using violence to get the point across but it is just so damn good to see Christians actually get stirred up about something. I often wonder why Christians don’t hold more protest rallies against things like this and Christian persecutions. If only there was as much passion for Christianity as there is for Leftist causes.
    Damien Spillane

  • It might satisfy our sense of outrage to condone the violent protests, but publicity helps Serrano.

    Somehow Christians need to discredit the man and his blasphemous art in the eyes of the arts community, so that he no longer “gets traction” for his rubbish.

    I like Mario’s idea of parodying the original.

    John Angelico

  • Sorry, Bill,

    You’ve got it all wrong. They were performance artists making a statement about the abuse of religion in art.

    The hammer was their medium.
    The gallery was their stage.
    Abuse of religion in art was their message
    The news media attention is their applause

    Ahh, true art. It lifts one’s soul.

    Michael Hutton

  • Ann Barnhardt – what a woman! Go you little ripper! Makes me realise what a coward I have been! And the cowardly, along with the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolators and all liars are going to end up in the fiery lake of burning sulphur! (Rev.21:8) Thanks Ann, Keith and Bill for pointing this out!
    Jeannie Crooks

  • Quite right Michael

    And as Ewan McDonald said elsewhere, “Those who attacked this so-called ‘artwork’ were simply exercising their creative freedoms! What a bigot is the French culture minister for condemning these young artists.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Jeannie, beware.

    While I like Ann Barnhardt’s zeal and boldness, I do think that the wise as serpents and harmless as doves scripture might not be one of her favourites.

    To give your address out like that is INSANE!!

    But the truth is that we definitely do need to speak the truth out loud and without fear of those who don’t like to hear it, because as the Word says the truth shall set them free.

    It’s up to every person who claims that Jesus is their Lord to go forth and preach the gospel to all nations. That is why the command is known as the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion.

    Mario Del Giudice

  • I agree Bill, that apathy, indifference and a ho-hum attitude – is not one we should ever run with, about anything much. However, I sort-of get the ‘piss Christ’ artwork. It is crass, true. But it is actually what we all once thought of Christ!

    Sometimes we just all need a long silent look towards the suffering one, who, … ‘like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’. And to let his gracious suffering, soaked in the piss of the world, do the talking to the world.

    Trevor Faggotter

  • Artists could have a field day with Islam if they weren’t so weak kneed cowards! Oh perhaps not ‘cos they’d be tossed into prison for insulting the religion that has been elevated above all others.. Just goes to show that Satan certainly is the god of this world in which Christians get their just deserts. Better to suffer now then in the next life.
    Keith Lewis

  • I am not sure that the peace at all costs is not another excuse to appease our conscience at being an ineffectual, do nothing church that is only interested in what keeps us happy.

    If it is OK for Jesus to get angry, pick up the whip and drive out the merchants from the temple, it is OK for us to get angry and pick up the hammer.

    Roger Marks

  • Thanks Trevor

    While you are quite right that in the world’s eyes Jesus and the gospel are seen as rubbish, I am not sure that we need to become apologists for a sleazeball like Serrano. He certainly did not have this intention in mind when he did this – to demonstrate how the world views the gospel. He is misotheist who is getting rich out of blaspheming Christ and the Christian faith – he certainly is not trying to make some deep and serious theological or Christological point here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • For far too long the Church has been asleep in the light!!! Those who name the name of Jesus as their Lord and Savior need to start standing up for righteousness, and truth!
    Serrano has shown himself to be a hypocrite!!! I can understand that he is anti-religion – after all the Religious leaders of the day, ganged up on Jesus, to kill Him!!! I challenge Serrano to go after the religions of our day and join with you Bill in saying that if Serrano is for real, why hasn’t he done a “piss mohammed” and “piss budha”, etc!!!
    Barb Hoc

  • Ah yes, the ‘passive, peace-loving’ Christ drives the merchants from the temple.

    You can’t tell me those guys escaped without at least a few cuts and bruises!!!

    David Williams

  • Bravo Bill Thank God for your reasoned voice in an age of non reason and gross stupidity.
    Warwick Marsh

  • That was a very good article Bill. I can understand your attitude towards violence, but I must say I was personally pleased to hear about those young people having the conviction and courage to take a hammer to Serrano’s shock tactics masquerading as art. During my 33 years in radio broadcasting, I took an interest in analysing those I met in various sections of the media, who took a delight in fervently insulting all things Christian. I gained the impression that Christian doctrine made them feel guilty over their personal behaviour, whether it was infidelity, homosexuality, addiction to pornography or any of the other “usuals”. They attempted to justify themselves by hitting out at that belief system which took away their peace of mind. Returning to the subject of Serrano, one of my favourite sayings, when I wish to criticise something is “that it was about as valuable as a pint of tiger’s urine”. In Serrano’s attempt at “art” I don’t know which was of higher value, his art or his urine. I wouldn’t disturb my wallet for either.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • Thanks Bill. I’m no apologist for Serrano. Sometimes, however, the Spirit at work in the world, does take people’s crass statements and gives them a meaning quite different than what was intended.

    Like when the High Priest Caiaphas said: “it is better for you to have one man (Jesus) die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” We learn that, “He did not say this on his own… “, but was being prophetic, unknowingly.

    I would not adopt the ‘smashing’ response to Serrano’s artwork. That does not make me a passive church member, nor a chicken-hearted proclaimer. The pen, and the voice, is also mightier than the mallet.

    And just maybe we get a bit de-sensitised to our own evil hearts, praying: ‘let us thank God, we are not like that disgusting anti-Christian, opportunist’!

    Trevor Faggotter

  • Thanks again Trevor

    Yes I hear what you are saying and there is much of value in your response. However, it still kinda sounds like you are making an apology – if not for this guy, then for evil in general. That is, now you seem to offer a sort of moral equivalence argument: ‘yes he may be a sleazeball, but we all are really as well’. To which I reply, yes and no. Of course we are all sinners, and some are saved sinners. But there is a rather large difference between a sinner who agrees with God about his condition, repents, and seeks to let God do a new work in his life, and a sinner who still shakes his fist at God, still is in rebellion and in defiance, and uses blasphemous mockery of our Lord to get rich. There is so much difference here that Scripture of course teaches us that two different eternal destinies will be the result.

    Indeed, if we took your last line to its logical conclusion, then someone like Elijah was quite wrong to challenge the Baalists. After all, Elijah had evil in his own heart, so who was he to criticise some pagan idolaters? Indeed, if we embrace that sort of spiritual moral equivalence, then we would have to say that all the prophets were wrong to make strong statements about either Israel or the pagan nations. ‘We are all sinners after all, so who am I to say another person is wrong?’

    Hopefully you get my drift. The biblical balance is needed here, in other words – as hard as that may be to achieve. How can we offer a prophetic voice to the sin of the world, while also remaining humble and aware of our own shortcomings? It is not easy to do, but it seems we must try, as either extreme is unhelpful: either hypocritical railing against everyone else, or never saying anything, because we are not yet perfect.

    So while I take your point to an extent, we may have to continue to agree to disagree here. But thanks for writing in – ‘iron sharpening iron’ and all that is always valuable.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “Christophobe” what a useful addition to my armory! Thanks Bill.
    Anna Cook

  • On the subject of Ann Bernhardt’s site – I was very troubled all last night by some of her language and style. True she had some very important things to say, which needed to be said. It seemed to me, however, that some aspects of her approach constituted hate speech and did nothing to further the Gospel as well as reducing herself to the level of what she clearly despises and making her in some degree the same as her target.
    I took my concerns to my prayer hour this morning and came away with this understanding. Jesus’ righteous anger in dealing with the money changers, His rebukes of the scribes and pharisees etc. were directed to His own people who should have well understood the realities of what He was saying. They had been formed in their Jewish faith from childhood. His approach to the Samaritan woman was quite different. He told her the truth strongly and clearly without vilifying her or rejecting her and the outcome was, not only her conversion but that of many others.
    Anna Cook

  • Bill,
    Since 1997 I have boycotted the National Gallery of Victoria and ever since then I have been letting people know why. Christians can always vote with their feet and refuse to support any establishment which allows anyone to display their work which insults our Lord. I know it’s taxpayer funded but they still need people to attend to justify the exhibitions. I have also been doing this with those involved in the “Da Vinci Code”. Well done for keeping us informed that scum such as Serrano are still continuing their insults against Christians.

    God bless you and your family.
    Regards, Michael Palma

  • Barnhardt is a courageous woman. I pray for the Lord’s protection of her which is what she asks people to do for her.

    On art, couldn’t help noticing that MONA (in Tasmania) doesn’t exhibit the Danish Cartoons, or FGM sculptures, or pictures of Aisha, (child bride of Mohammed), decorated with animal dung.

    Marion Isham

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