I had planned another article, but when I read this...well, next time.
Awhile back, I wrote about the National Catholic Reporter's (NCR) contest
to create a 'new' Jesus for the millennium. How appropriate, how fitting,
that they'd use Christmas to unveil their 'new' Christ for their 'new'
church. Their man-made Jesus for their man-made church.
Reported by the Associated Press by David Crary, the 'winning' artist
was Janet McKenzie, a self proclaimed "devout agnostic," with an interest in
ALL faiths. We may recall that G. K. Chesterton said that those who feel all
religions are alike may as well say that all race horses are alike. Similiar
maybe, but hardly alike.
McKenzie said that her "goal was to be as inclusive as possible." It's
great to say that we should be inclusive, but we have to understand that
being inclusive doesn't mean, as NCR and CTA (et al use it, to include those
things that can't or shouldn't be included. As David Carlin of Our Sunday
Visitor points out:
"...they (reformers/dissidents) talk a lot about the importance of
'tolerance' (inclusiveness is often used as a synonym for tolerance).
Properly understood, tolerance is a magnificent virtue, indispensable in a
pluralistic society like our own. But it becomes quite the opposite of a
virtue when it is taken as a synonym for "anything goes." " ("Where deists
tread, disaster follows" David Carlin, Our Sunday Visitor; Dec. 19, 99)
We have many visions, paintings, renderings of Jesus. Jesus on the
cross, the Sacred Heart, the Infant of Prague, the laughing Jesus, etc. Each
speaks to the heart through art toward a certain aspect of Christ. Savior
and King, suffering and triumphant. Lonely and sad, laughing and warm.
There is no ambiguity about Him, He is the Christ, the Son of God.
McKenzie's 'Jesus' is "At first glance...a black or African-American
Jesus, but (supposedly) looking more deeply you see many people in it." She
went on to say that 'her' Jesus was intended to be a masculine presence, but
she sought to add a feminine dimension, so she used a woman as a model. Now,
I have to admit that when I first saw the painting, I thought it was a woman,
hardly any 'masculine' presence at all. If anything, it is, at best,
sexless. As androgynous as Saturday Night Live's Pat. So, Jesus, an
historical male, is rendered as.....who knows.
He/she is robed with a pale pink background. (No mention what, if
anything, the background was to represent, but considering the color and
symbol of gay activists!) In the upper left corner is the yin-yang symbol.
This is interesting since the philosophy of the yin and the yang is just
about totally contrary to Christian philosophy and teaching. The Yin and
yang depict in symbol a 'balance.' Light and dark, male and female, strong
and weak, good and evil. Christ is weak? Evil? Both man AND woman? Are we
to presume Jesus was in touch with His feminine side? Again, instead of art
being used to clarify, or inspire, we see it being used here to befuddle and
A feather in the upper right corner symbolizes the American Indian
spirituality, which McKenzie said she learned about during a stay in New
Mexico. What is interesting about this is whether or not it is a true Indian
spirituality, or rather, as one American Indian put it, "a bunch of middle
aged white women making up their version of Indian spirituality."
National Catholic Reporter and their sister organization, Call To Action,
have their 'new' Jesus. But is it a true 'symbol' of Christ? Hardly.
Though it has to be pointed out that their (NCR's) intention was to cause an
"If everyone looks at it and says, 'Very nice,' that means we've failed.
Every new work of art that has been worth anything has been controversial
when it first appeared." (Michael Farrell, editor of NCR)
The only thing 'controversial' is what 'does' this painting represent? It
definitely represents the intrusion, and adherence, of Gnostic/New Age
philosophy into the Christian faith. The combining of a sort of native
spirituality (an eco-spirituality; the earth is god) [though the American
Indian gave honor and worship to the Great Spirit, who they called Father and
translates very readily into Christian spirituality]. Along with Hinduism,
Taoism (yin and yang). It holds elements of a few agendas, with no
'Christian' spirituality (except the name of the piece).
It's simply a practice in 20th century deism which sees itself as better
than the 'revealed' religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
And like the 'deists' of the 18th and 19th century, instead of creating a
'new,' better and truer kind of religion, this piece acts only as a symbol of
their journey from faith to complete irreligion, from faith, to agnosticism,
to outright atheism.
As for the painting itself, my hat's off to Janet McKenzie. As a piece of
art, it's very well done. Had it been called "Woman in Blue" I would have
said it's akin to the works of O'Keefe. (Yup, I did take a number of course
in art appreciation) But to call this a symbol of a religious nature, to
call it "Jesus of the People," one might expect her next work to be a
concentration camp entitled "Picnic in the Grass."
But the NCR and CTA, to quote David Carlin, do not see "themselves as the
foes of decency.....they view themselves as the apostles of a better and
higher morality -- hence the incredibly self-righteous tone they adopt when
chastising the rest of us for our old-fashioned attachment to traditional
morality." ("Where deists tread, disaster follows"; David Carlin, Our Sunday
Visitor; Dec. 19, 99)
Pax Christi, Pat