Friday, July 24, 2009

"The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker"

An art exhibition in Glasgow, in which the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone presented an open Bible, plenty of writing utensils, and the following permission “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it” has seen a wide range of the usual suspects outraged, because a wide range of the usual suspects responded to the invitation in what anyone could have predicted would be their usual way, but has (despite it's seeming one-liner quality) raised some truly interesting issues, in my opinion. The London Times explains [via artinfo.com]:
The open Bible is a central part of Made in God’s Image, an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow. By the book is a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

The exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which said that the idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text. But to the horror of many Christians, including the community church, visitors have daubed its pages with comments such as “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.” A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

The Church of Scotland expressed concern, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit infantile, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was symptomatic of a broken and lawless society.

The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organisations representing gay Christians and Muslims. Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said that he did not believe in God, but that his research for the £7,000 show had underlined his respect for people of faith.

The community church, which celebrates “racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity”, had suggested the “interactive” Bible and pens and Mr Schrag, 34, said he had been intrigued.

“Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work,” he said. “It was an open gesture. Are those who say they are upset offended by the things that people write, or just by the very notion that someone should write on a Bible?”
Where to begin?

First and foremost, I see no connection between taking someone up on their permission to write in a Bible and "lawlessness." As far as I know, there is no law in Great Britain or Scotland against writing in a Bible or any other text. The Christian Legal Centre ought to be far more precise with its language. I mean, surely the suggestion that this is a "legal" problem might bring more attention and/or funding to their organization, but if that's the quality of the logic they represent, the good Christians of the UK would do well to consider more secular counsel when truly in need of good legal advice.

Secondly, the Times article is rather sloppily edited in that it makes no distinction between comments like "This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all" (which is a mindless oversimplification of what at some level might be a worthwhile critique, but which as presented is simply offensive noise) and one like "I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this" (which seems to be exactly the sort of inclusion-seeking comment the project was designed to elicit). Surely the MCC had comments like the second one in mind when it proposed the exhibition. Not that I would expect the Roman Catholic Church to admit they see the difference in these comments at this juncture (although hope springs eternal), but for the Times to lump them together under the umbrella of a response of "horror" without offering another opinion is highly disappointing journalism.

Third, the comment I quote in the title for this piece falls into that category of topics that really begin to open up possibilities for any religious thinker not hellbent on regurgitating the same old line and truly interested in seeing Christianity reach a new generation:
One writer has altered the first line of the Old Testament from “In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth” to “In the beginning, God (me) I created religion.” Another has written “The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker”.
Whether the Church likes it or not, these sentiments (that man created religion and that morality lessons come to us via Pop culture more these days than via the Bible, and perhaps that's OK) are the context in which the Church must today demonstrate its relevance. Those genies are out of the bottle, and only through the most draconian of measures could the Church get them back in again without addressing and discussing them openly.

Fourth, the sponsors of the exhibition are indicating they plan a highly disturbing response to the criticism:
Last night the producers of the exhibition indicated that the most offensive pages would be removed....
Really? Who decides what's offensive? Some would say the entire concept is offensive, others would say censorship is even more offensive. This is a very bad idea in my opinion. If you can't take the heat, close the show. Don't edit it on the fly. You're never going to find that happy middle ground in this.

Fifth, some just couldn't resist the opportunity to bash Muslims in their response:
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.”
The quality of the logic in that objection suggests this spokesman is programmed to connect any controversy to Islam on autopilot. The implied assertion is that should the artists have presented the Koran for comments, the response would have been more violent, even possibly deadly. The conclusion you're presumably meant to take away from that is that you can write in a Bible and only get a tongue-lashing, therefore this exhibition, which the Church condemns (meaning it's a bad thing) is actually evidence of the Church's relative benevolence (because they're not calling for the death of the artists, which is a good thing), which means that even though they are offended by it, they're not so offended as to not find something positive to point out about it. Can you say "opportunisitic"?

All together, this exhibition has sparked a far more interesting dialog than I would have imagined had I read only its proposal. How refreshing and worth while.

Labels:

51 Comments:

Blogger Tom Hering said...

A quibble with the concept. How can you write your way back into the Bible, when you were never left out of it? "For God so loved the WORLD ..." is an irreducibly universal statement. Aren't we really talking about feeling excluded by some churches, which is a different matter altogether?

7/24/2009 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I like this comment in response on the times site:

enton Queue wrote:
"Imagine a clay pot shaking its fist toward the potter who fashioned it.."

Clay pots don't have fists.
July 24, 2009 11:54 AM BST on


WHich points to the problem of mistaking the bible for THE WORD - idolatry (or is that anti-Catholic?) I guess some people are still pissed about not having a Latin Mass. Praise Gutenberg!

The Post would run the story (If they haven't already:

BARMY BRITS BASH BIBLE!

Which has the added connotation of crazy bible thumpers!

Here's the lede:

Artists are magnets for controversy, but one project as the pope burning mad. Sources say one church has decided the people can write their own damned bible!

Followed by the usual. But are you upset because the paper didn't include editorial analysis (these quotes are could have been written by teenagers or by coked up Catholics out to smear the enemy)

Or are you upset because there weren't more quotes to balance the story?

Second angle - "some people just don't care,"

writes one revisionist:

"Hello, having a wonderful trip, great show, hope to see you in NY" God Bless - Bob, Mary, The kids, Brooklyn

Third angle: "Artists find meaning in books":
"Dear God, I got fired for having my Students eat "Notes on Camp" and then return the book to the shelves in a pickle jar. Yours in Christ, Chastity Bono

7/24/2009 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Aren't we really talking about feeling excluded by some churches, which is a different matter altogether?

Not really. The Bible is pretty detailed about how second-class it views women, gays, slaves, etc. The text itself is used, even today, to justify the perpetuation of the exclusion by some churches, so it's the text that must be addressed.

7/24/2009 10:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For God so loved the WORD ..."

"... that it was made flesh."

"To do into others..."

"Seek no false profits..."

"dooby dooby do"

xoxo

7/24/2009 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Ed, you said, "The Bible is pretty detailed about how second-class it views women, gays, slaves, etc."

Ed, we would really have to discuss specific verses and passages in the Bible. But I'm guessing neither of us want to do that here, because it would be off-topic, and the topic is the art project, and the resulting dialogue - a dialogue that's focused on the art project. I'll just say I disagree with your statement about the Bible, and let it go at that. Peace.

7/24/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

The Bible is an amalgam of teachings and philosophies- why not let people add to it? Not so the Koran, which is considered God's words. Obviously much more loaded, so I don't think the comment by the church is necessarily a knee jerk reaction.

Nice to know books still have power.

7/24/2009 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It depends on your point of view, probably, Donna, but from where I grew up (in a Christian Fundamentalist church), the Bible is viewed as "God's word" and there is no question whatsoever that it's exact and just a loaded.

If the Catholic Church sees the Bible as more an amalgam (which I think it does), you might indeed be right that they view the Koran in such terms, but to be consistent they would have to also chastise Christian Fundamentalists for the same thing. The fact that they don't is selective and opportunistic.

7/24/2009 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

This is a little off topic, but related: When various official forms ask me to fill in the (optional) "Race" line, I usually write "Lesbian." Partly I just like throwing a wrench into their neatly defined compartments, but mostly I want to make sure that a whole group of people remains visible.

In terms of Bible versus Koran, it's probably true that the more extreme factions in Islam today would take deadly offense at such comments. But Islam is a younger religion than Christianity. The Crusades and the Inquisition are nasty reminders of deadly Christian extremism. And then there's the holocaust, small H, of the thousands of women burned as "witches" in Europe in the Middle Ages. One can quibble at the numbers, but the historical fact remains. And of course, there was that little matter of the Salem witch trials in more relatively recent times. Religious extremism is, unfortunately, ecumenical.

7/24/2009 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

donna, there is a an interpretive tradition in some Islamic sects that continually supplements the Koran. A teaching tradition that very loosely compares with the Roman Catholic Church's "Magisterium." Keep in mind that Muslims are not monolithic, and vary in their views of the Koran's "finality." Just as Christians are not monolithic, and vary in their views of the Bible.

7/24/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

"I keep my bible in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me"
-Slayer

The idea is that the bible is an extension of the Lord, like the American flag or Jesus, who never wrote anything down! In this sense he or it or whatever, is the creator and owner of all creation, immanent and transcendent, with copyright laws in perpetuity (DNA is an expression of a process and thus totally patentable by the chosen people if they get a centrifuge, a volunteer, some scalpels, a large format camera with digital back and a good light kit. Wear gloves!

The idea of sovreighnty is what is being used here - a concept that was used to brutally punish criminals as all crimes are thus crimes against the KING'S OWN BODY!
(Foucault: Discipline and Punish)

"In the future everyone will rent from the state"
-Hobbes Leviathon

Americans need slaves for their slaves.
-De Toqueville, Democracy in America

Fortunately the hypocracy of loving everyone equally vs. killing someone because they stole the kings stale fruit nut bread (love the sinner hate the sin) was pointed out and the two party parliament was born, and after that we got Republican rule which ended last year, actually.

That art still needs galleries and stages is proof positive that breaking the magic circle or the fourth wall can let the demons into this Kingdom! DON'T GO AGAINST the order of god bro, it's HARSH REALM filled with loud noises and Gothtards!

As Joanne says, they burned people to death for wearing short shorts a mere two hundred years ago! A world without Daisy Dukes is a world without wonder, imagination. Please consider covering up for the children. Don't rock the boat. Stay in your room.

PDA's gross me out.

7/24/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This project is interesting in that it provides an anonymous emotional outlet for participants to make a statement concerning their feelings about the Bible, as well as their perceptions of exclusivity in the text.

Most academic debates concerning the Bible have become so bogged down in intellectualisms that they lose sight of how individuals respond and react to the text on a personal level. If religion is to have any lasting relevance in the world, it has to me more than a socially mediated construct. It has to be lived in the lives of those claiming to be followers.

I wouldn't necessarily call the Bible a false or a flawed text, though many perceptions of it certainly are.In the end I think it's importatnt for all the emotions to be inscribed upon the text, so that people can begin to reclaim the text or continue to struggle with it---one way or another it forces people to engage the Bible and taht is a very artistic endeavor in and of itself.

---Delucci

7/24/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I think I would have written "This Bible Killed A Tree", but basically I would have underlined some passages I find contradictory. The Bible is wrong in assembling together what are totally different books. That's why it doesn't make sense. It's a collage of very different things.
I'm baffled at how religious people refute historical evidences
about how artificially that book was binded together. You may like certain texts within the bible, and see them as sacred, but to understand the bible itself as sacred is to not understand that in the times YHWH apparently spoke, there was never any mention about a "bible" or any similar collage. It's almost blasphemous to pretend the contrary, in my opinion, because you are taking a manmade creation or "alteration" a "curating" as such, and pretend that it is a godly creation. Who is the man to curate the word of God? I would be kind of angry if I was the God that the Bible refers to.

Cedric Casp

7/24/2009 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

Points well taken, Ed, Joanne and Tom. Indeed, no religion is monolithic. Perhaps I'm sticking my neck out here, but my sense is that the holy books of Judaism and Islam are viewed by the great majority of their adherents as inviolable as physical objects- Jews bury old prayer books, for example. In other words, it's not limited to the extremists who feel this way.

I'm only speaking from my limited knowledge, so feel free to disagree. Interesting thread, thanks for posting that Ed.

7/24/2009 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I am angry Cedric. Or at least a bit testy. WHere is the love? Are people so worried about being taken advantage of or having Jesus lick all the good bon bons?? I told him, as an extension of my spiritual form, made flesh, to take it easy on the sweets.

I know the answer, I'm just putting it out there in case you are bored - that's one flaw in my perfect creation, boredom - but I did it to give y'all the illusion of freedom.

Don't fight me bro.

7/24/2009 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

donna, not inviolable physical objects, but deeply loved words. Revered and preserved like letters from one's family or lover.

7/24/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Just as Christians believe that God incarnated as Jesus, Muslims believe that God inlibrated as the Koran. So yes, defacing a Koran would be a bigger deal. Too, we might as well admit, from what we learned from the Danish cartoon riots and the fatwa upon Salman Rushdie, that there's a strain within contemporary Islam that has decided that acts of spoken, written, and drawn blasphemy are causes for violence. This strain exists, and we should not pretend otherwise, nor regard the noting thereof as "bashing Muslims." Indeed, one wonders whether the organizers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.

7/24/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous DJ Ward said...

Alternate title: Bible as a Blog

Much of Christianity has been preached from a pulpit for so long, it's no wonder that so many religious groups are upset. Schrag and Malone have basically opened up the text to social commenting, an inclusive form of communication. Maybe Pope Benedict XVI should take the cue and start his own blog.

7/24/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

DJ Ward, you suggested, "Maybe Pope Benedict XVI should take the cue and start his own blog."

Even Ed couldn't moderate 1.3 billion Roman Catholics. Maybe 1.2 billion, but not 1.3.

7/24/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Zip as YHWH:
++I did it to give y'all the ++illusion of freedom.

Don't forget I am your image, pal

Cedric C

7/24/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Indeed, one wonders whether the organizers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.

If by "one" you mean the subgroup of the population who'll take the meagerest of reasons to remind others of the excesses of a small group of agitators in some quarters (where were the riots to the cartoons in the US, which has a larger total Muslim population than Lebanon?), then perhaps one does indeed wonder.

What others wonder, however, is what possible relevance that has to this project, within a context in which the Metropolitan Community Church proposed an exhibition designed to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text?

The project wasn't designed to compare the Bible to the Koran or the response of the Islamic faithful to their holiest text to that of the Christian faithful. None of the comments quoted mention other religions. The artists did not suggest they sought to frame their piece in terms of anything other than Christians' response to their own Holy text.

So what others wonder is what motivates someone to bring such irrelevant comparisons to the project on their own. Other than opportunism and bigotry, that is.

7/24/2009 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

What's all the fuss?

Art or Not, did people really expect any other response?

It's trivial, soft core porn

You want inflammatory? Deal with something substantial, like stopping new Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Oh hell (religious term) just start a war (political term)

7/24/2009 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You and I know that the point of the piece wasn't to compare religions, but it's understandable that that subtlety might be lost upon a (presumably professional) "spokesman for the Catholic Church" who probably heard about this in terms of his holy book getting desecrated for an art project. Someone who parses the world in religious rather than artistic terms might well muse upon how the Muslims would have reacted if it were their book rather than his. I sympathize with no party connected to this story, but my bar for suspecting someone as a bigot is a lot higher than that.

7/24/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

The Catholic guy is upset and wishes times were back to when people feared defacing the bible, hence why he brings up Islam. He's not saying that muslims are wrong, but that people are wrong in defacing the Bible.

I'm not sure bigot is the exact word. It takes a non-believer to not address this statement from the point of view of a believer.
He's not attacking the muslims more than envying them.


Cedric Casp

7/24/2009 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

There's quite a leap for me as well from suspecting "bigotry" (a persistent and probably genetically useful flavor of prejudice against "others" which I firmly believes exists in all of us to some degree and we are judged on by how we express it [or don't]) and being a "bigot" (which I reserve as a term to describe those who habitually don't hesitate to share their xenophobic thoughts or relish in using them as weapons).

Having said that, I can't see any other logical reason than bigotry unleashed that a spokesman for the Church would turn the topic to the Koran, unless he was predispositioned to defend his religion via a knee-jerk comparison with Islam. There is so much else to reflect upon in this situation that such a comparison strikes me as grotesquely gratuitous and/or intentionally diversionary.

7/24/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

As propaganda, religious or otherwise, it's a failure.

Anyone find pics of any of the other work exhibited?

7/24/2009 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

obviously the priest dudes take such assaults on their holy book personally. If my whole identity was bound up in a belief system I guess I would too. I just don't understand how they can call it infantile or stupid to attack a book that doesn't include code samples for javascript - which is way harder to learn than the ten commandments, believe you me. Who begat that?

7/24/2009 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Ed for taking me to the U.K. this week. Judging from the stops we made, people there really enjoy deflating each other.

Cathy

7/24/2009 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

obviously the priest dudes take such assaults on their holy book personally

Understandably.

What I don't understand is why his impulse in feeling personally assaulted was to lash out at Islam? Why not lash out at something else?

There's no denying what he said regarding the Koran...but why he said it in relation to this situation, why it occurred to him that this was even relevant, is very troubling.

7/24/2009 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I can think of another logical reason: A work of conceptual art successfully baffled someone who could not be expected to understand it, even if it wasn't lame, which it is.

"Lash out"? Really?

7/24/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

What I don't understand is why his impulse in feeling personally assaulted was to lash out at Islam?

This doesn't seem so hard to understand, we've already had a good go around with art-and-Islam, and the Christians are saying, if the Moslems can riot over blasphemy why can't we.

7/24/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

uɐʇɐs 1ıɐɥ

I don't think anyone thought it through that far ed. Not the art, not the statements. It's all knee jerk - why the Muslims? Because no christian alive today is blowing shit up - at least to a provincial boob in a small "city."

In the same vein, it's not racist to arrest someone who is not helpful in an investigation of a break in and who does not submit to the authority of the badge. Just insensitive - which is why everyone hates cops.

It is pretty stupid though, to arrest someone who obviously is who they say they are in their own home, no less. Couldn't you just get a neighbor to verify it?

"Im sorry sir but someone reported a break in, my job is to verify that you are not a pod person."

What we have here actually, in both instances, is a failure to communicate. People taking pot shots over barricades built out of ego. That's not art, that's political agitation. agit prop, you did it again, again.

This is what happens to truth in our society.

7/24/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"Lash out" yes, really.

Imagine you're a young Muslim immigrant living in Britain and you hear of this story. You're curious about the response of the religious leaders to this exhibition, knowing full well that it would never be tolerated in your homeland, and you're not at all surprised that they consider it an outrage, but it looks very much to you like a self-contained Christian issue. Except for one Church spokesman seizes on it to, inexplicably, criticize Islam.

What does any of this have to do with Islam, you wonder? Why did they drag your faith into this mess? Why yet another gratuitous negative comment about Islam.

It's "lashing out" because it's gratuitous...it seeks to change the subject, make the center of the negative attention something else...it is, in a word, scapegoating. Continual scapegoating is a form of lashing out, of keeping the "other" constantly on the defensive. It's obscene.

A work of conceptual art successfully baffled someone who could not be expected to understand it

And his response is to discuss something utterly unrelated rather that spend a moment reflecting on why he was baffled? This, in and of itself, deserves criticism...add in the fact that he's pointing fingers at others through his bafflement and it, again, becomes grotesque.

7/24/2009 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

For all we know he has an acute understanding of inlibration and didn't mean the remark critically.

I'm with George here. There are so many full-on, unambiguous demonstrations of religious bigotry with which one could ruin one's day contemplating. I happen to agree with the Roman Catholic Chruch on this one: this exhibit is infantile. (Although that Christian lawyer's group can go get stuffed. This is what it looks like when lawful society is working, beyotches.)

7/24/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: 'One wonders whether the organizers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.'"

It's damn hard to determine someone's views and motives when all you've got to work with is a single sentence of theirs. But let's go with what we've got: a micro-text.

(1.) He says nothing about Muslims - what some Muslims have done or would do with perceived blasphemy. He says nothing about Islam - how any one sect within Islam would or wouldn't tolerate the exhibition.

(2.) The subject of his statement is the organizers of the exhibition. The members of a theologically liberal church.

(3.) His own church is a big-tent mix of liberals and conservatives, but he probably belongs to the latter camp.

(4.) So he's a conservative Christian in one church commenting on the liberal Christians in another church. His whole point is that liberal Christians are unwilling to offend members of another faith (those conservative Muslims who revere the Koran), but are willing to offend members of their own faith (those conservative Christians who revere the Bible). This is the plain meaning of the micro-text.

(5.) The only thing the micro-text points to is a liberal attitude that can found in both the organizers' church and his own.

7/24/2009 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

For all we know he has an acute understanding of inlibration and didn't mean the remark critically.

Whenever an imagined explanation relies on two unlikely suppositions (he meant his comment to be understood to reference inlibration and he meant it to be taken merely as intellectual hypothesizing in response to a request for a reaction to an offensive art exhibition), it's probably best to reconsider the likelihood of Occam's razor.

7/24/2009 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

His whole point is that liberal Christians are unwilling to offend members of another faith (those conservative Muslims who revere the Koran), but are willing to offend members of their own faith (those conservative Christians who revere the Bible). This is the plain meaning of the micro-text.

Wow...you realize of course the access you need to the micro-politics within the Christian faith to come to such a conclusion, right? Let's accept for a moment you're correct...this spokeman for the Church couldn't have possibly expected Britain's Muslims to receive his criticism in that way. Are their feelings unimportant in a public statement?

I'm sorry, but the notion that this is some intellectual intra-Church debate talking point, when the quote was specifically offered, to a newspaper, in response to the art exhibition, strikes me as grasping at straws. I remain convinced it was sourced in bias.

7/24/2009 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Ed, I've had half-a-lifetime of access to what you call "the micro-politics within the Christian faith." Both my experience and my reading about the subject are the basis for my analysis. So I really do think the Catholic spokesman was using the secular media to make a point to fellow Christians - to the members of another church and some members of his own.

I agree he's to be criticized for not considering how Muslims in Scotland and elsewhere might interpret his statement. Though some Muslims have a good understanding of the way things work in Christianity.

7/24/2009 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

What does Luke's father have to say about all this?

7/24/2009 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

So I really do think the Catholic spokesman was using the secular media to make a point to fellow Christians - to the members of another church and some members of his own.

It's feasible, Tom, but let's say the goal was really to use the press to publicly chastise the MCC for their liberal excesses. The disregard for the way his comment might be read by Muslim readers (and really...how many Muslism do you think would have access to the read of that statement you admit took you half-a-lifetime of access to decipher?) becomes all the more horrendous. At that point, he's reduced Muslims to pawns in his theological/political tug of war.

You're the one who began this thread suggesting God's love for the world trumps ever other concern? If the Church was dedicated to spreading that sentiment, why waste an opportunity to reach the public via the press to become mired in the mud of inter-sect bickering?

No matter how you parse it, this spokesman blew it.

7/24/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

He absolutely blew it, no two ways about that. I'm just presuming incompetence before malice. Occam's razor doesn't permit you to assume the worst cause just because it's simple.

Zipthwung, you might find this helpful.

7/24/2009 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What does Luke's father have to say about all this?

He finds their lack of faith disturbing, of course.

7/24/2009 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger donna said...

No question there was an inherent implication in the comparison- as if Muslims are so much less civil and generous and understanding, and look at how we are accepting of this, therefore we are exalted and Muslims are denigrated. So that once again we pick on the current demon. I don't see how it can be spun any other way- not hypothetical or intellectual in the least. A cheap shot in a way.

I'm interested in the comparison of texts myself, so I enjoyed this thread, but sorry if I overlooked the point of what you were saying, Ed. If the intent of the church spokeman's comment was diversionary, it worked on me.

7/24/2009 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"... let's say the goal was really to use the press to publicly chastise the MCC for their liberal excesses."

That's part of what I'm saying.

"... how many Muslims do you think would have access ..."

Let's not overlook one very important part of this equation. Most Muslims in Scotland and elsewhere want to live in peace with their neighbors. And they're not shy about asking their Christian friends and neighbors questions. Like, "Why did this guy bring up the Koran? Why do you Christians fight with one another? Don't you respect your own Holy Scriptures?"

"... you're the one who brought up ..."

Let's not treat "the Church" as monolithic. It's in fact churches, plural, and the goals of those churches are as varied as the missions of galleries in Chelsea.

"No matter how you parse it, this spokesman blew it."

I agree. He missed a great opportunity to speak in public about God's love for the whole world. But then he would have been viewed by some as opportunistic and proselytizing. It can be a no-win situation no matter what you say, if others aren't willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

7/24/2009 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But then he would have been viewed by some as opportunistic and proselytizing. It can be a no-win situation no matter what you say, if others aren't willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

How's about starting with a theological version of the Hippocratic oath...

7/24/2009 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"How's about starting with a theological version of the Hippocratic oath ..."

I'm all for that. Just remember that a patient's acceptance (I'm talking about a willing patient now) of the doctor's healing methods can involve a temporary experience of pain - even amputation and organ removal. Let me tell ya: serious healing is never easy, no matter how nice the doctor is. ;-)

7/24/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

How is the Qu'Ran unrelated to the Bible? When you attack the Bible, you're attacking part of the Qu'Ran. What about Salman Rushdie, who did some art influenced by the Qu'Ran, and had to fear his murder all his life because an islam religious leader sent a fatwa against him? Is it ok to compare this art with Rushdie? Do you allow me? Because a religious group is represented by their leader, I don't care if not every muslim would do bad, I am concerned about their leader. When was the last time the Pope asked that someone be killed? I don't recall hearing a caliphate claiming that the words of the Ayatollah were unvalid. I mean, I don't think the Islam community ever presented official excuses
to Rushdie, for having had to hide for a good portion of his life (Rushdie on the other hald did present his excuses). And you think I should be upset for someone bringing this up, whatever the context?


Are we allowed some flowing of ideas? Since when are we not allowed to make associations when interpretating a work of art? Can I compare De Kooning with Pollock? What is the difference with making a comparison between the Bible and the Qu'Ran? Since when does someone should force their mind to narrow their interpretation of an artwork to a very specific context (here a catholic school)?Catholics and muslims form together 70% of the population. Is one allowed to step a little back and consider an artwork as being about the desacralization of major sacred texts?? The catholic man's remark is based on a history of precedents. I don't get how you are not allowing his interpretation. I don't see how someone is grotesque for joining the dots in what is simply an interpretative response to an artwork bringing abrahamic texts under the loop.

And how have you figured that this man dislikes muslims? That is so presomptuous. You don't know what this man thinks. Maybe he's hoping for the muslims to come to his defense, because as a catholic he feels powerless in condemning a piece of art. Maybe the young UK muslim reading this story would feel the pride of thinking "he's right, we would never allow such thing. What pitiful catholics." What is in you to define the standard muslim reaction as being one of persecution? I think this debate reeks of taboos and censorship. Everybody these days talk about what if a white person have tried break in into their own home. But a catholic should not be allowed to ask "what if a muslim experienced this"? Unrelated? Sounds to me more like a big taboo.

Cedric Casp

7/24/2009 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Don't ask me how I kept missing this, but in the Times article you quote excerpts from, Ed, it states, "The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organizations representing gay Christians and Muslims." So a connection between the exhibition and Islam was already there, before the Catholic spokesman made his connection. Maybe he was referring to the Muslims involved in this exhibition when he asked, "... whether the organizers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced." If so, his question was fair enough.

7/25/2009 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I think I'm safe with factual if I claim that Catholics and Muslims rarely let their children decide the religion they should believe in. So when should believers start taking the Hippocratic Oath? At 8 years old?

Cedric C

7/25/2009 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous ellen the red(head) said...

the problem with religious and political fanatics is the essential illogic of their positions, that being: they believe they unerringly know what is moral and correct and right (as if it some objective thing) and then they set out to control or interdict all others' behavior they consider objectionable. historically, they like fires and nooses and other objects of death. their thinking inclines them toward sadistic acts. such people would likely countenence torture (as a means of changing behaviors and practices they consider objectionable) if it were considered more socially acceptable. that they are bent on controlling others' behavior should not surprise one. theirs is an essentially authoritarian, fascistic and anti-democratic mode of thinking, and when they get involved in issues of art and art-creation, ones natural impulse is to run for cover, as their reasoning is solipsistic and simplistic. oh, and yes, left unchecked, such people are far more dangerous than whatever conduct or practices they attempt prevent. i admire your entering the debate with/about them, as you always have something illuminating to add to the debate.

7/27/2009 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

I this post in the train,
and I was enable to post a comment
first of all I love the whole frisson that something like that causes. People are so sure of their comfort zone you cannot challenge a different point of view they go bonkers.
Last year I had a piece at the cafeteria of the art students league of NYC, "I'm no Jesus" a baby jesus like doll, holding a mazuzah and with some catholic parament from the holly mass with a huge hard on. I have no idea how many people like it
but the one that dislike made sure I heard their opinion: even try to convince the director of the league to take out of the all.
Anyway, religion is like an open scar: touch it and you'll see screams

Carlos

7/27/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Edward wrote: The text itself is used, even today, to justify the perpetuation of the exclusion by some churches, so it's the text that must be addressed.

I agree, though I feel that the only effective way to "address" scripture is to accept that it a) is not to be taken literally (the old "It's a metaphor, stupid!" approach) and b) is a rather random gathering of different peoples' myths and histories into a semi-coherent narrative.

This being the case, any addressing is bound to outrage certain segments of the religious population, especially the fundamentalists, the literalists, and the clergy. It's just the rest of the world that has to move on, forging an equitable moral/ethical code, whether atheist, progressive believer, or any other sensible type (assuming they're that tempered examples of these types!).

Anyway, good luck tonight, Edward!

7/30/2009 01:25:00 PM  

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