Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a pretty crucifixion

If there is one thing that Burke and Taylor have done in their book especially towards the very end of it, it is to provide what seems to be the best example I can think of of what much of emergent and postmodernism is about.

In the conclusion, they start with a bit about Dali and one of his paintings. It's one of Christ being crucified, but unlike others that had been like it, his idea was different.

But Dali was oppsed to this kidn fo action. "MY aesthetic ambition was completely opposite of all the Christs painted by most of the modern artists, who have all interpreted him in the espressionistic and contortionistic sense, thus obtaining emotion through ugliness," said Dali. In contrast, he set out to make Christ "beautiful as the God that he is."

Indeed, Dali seems to have succeeded. Unlike other paintings where Christ is emaciated, deathly pale, and sickly looking, the Christ of Saint John of the Cross appears youthful, muscular, and contemporary, more like a male model than the classic image we have come to expect from religious Christian art.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretics Guide to Eternity, p. 222

One thing that always kind of surprises me, when dealing for example with Sojo types, is just how much they hate Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Granting, I have known of times when some people seemed to have gotten too taken up with morbid details of what may have happened, but there is also the opposite error of trying to prettify and sanitize it, too. One would think that they would embrace it, what with all their self-proclaimed love of the underdog and how they are mistreated.

Salvadore Dali understood something that I think we, who are interested in religion, often do not. Our religious needs and points of identification change with the times. Dali replaced the image of Jesus as suffering Savior from another time and place with the God of beauty and grace. He desired a Christ who represented the nuclear age, so rather than focusing on his body, this painting captures mostly Christ's outstretched arms and bowed head, forming, in Dali's view, a perfect circle, the representation of the nucleus of the atom.
p. 223

I know little about Dali, though I know Francis Schaeffer comments about his art in at least one of his books. The point for now is, though, that intentionally on his part or not, Dali's painting, and by extension Burke and Taylor's approval of the project, create an almost mythical, fictitious air around the crucifixion.

Their crucified Christ is a male model. It (it is too much to call it 'he') hangs gracefully upon the cross. It is an object of human beauty. It is, in a word, safe, sanitized. It is the modern world, looking at itself as god, and prettifying the picture for their own ends. From what I've seen of the painting being discussed, Christ isn't even nailed to the cross, the body is free of any marks, there is no crown of thorns, no whip stripes, His precious blood is not in evidence at all. The face is hidden, so the question of the beard cannot be answered.

The crucified Christ of the Bible is not that construct. His real body was beaten with real whips and fists, real thorns were pushed onto his real head, real nails were hammered into his wrist and ankles, and he died a real, ugly, painful death. I will not go into morbid details here, but I doubt even the most "espressionistic and contortionistic" piece of art could ever fully crasp what the Son of Man and Son of God endured.

And to take the focus away from Christ's body is to take it away from the fact "This is my body which is broken for you".

Why is this so distasteful to them? Why do they react so violently against the idea that Christ's death was a substitute for us and our sins? Why are they so eager for us to put it behind us, and look at a safe, sanitized Jesus?

I think it has to do with their view of man. They want to view man as good. If man is good, there was no need for Christ's sacrifice. It is only if man is sinful that Christ's sacrifice means anything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you accept that your humanity is condemned, why be human? Why should such a species even exists amongst the cattles and the hares?
No blood can erase your DNA, even a mind suffering from amnesia.
But without shedding the blood of a killer, you shall remain dead in your pews.