Last evening I attended a meeting at which the public was allowed to make comments on the artwork I described in an earlier post. It was interesting to hear the different viewpoints, especially from the artist who produced the works that many people found offensive and inappropriate. My hope is that the artist will voluntarily remove the offending artwork now that he has heard the community’s objections.
The artist claimed he wasn’t trying to offend anybody but was making some statements about crass commercialization and how advertising manipulates us and our children. While I believe him, I found the piece with the crucified Christ figure filled with what could only be called anti-Christian images. So what does that tell us?
Giving the artist the benefit of the doubt, I see two possibilities regarding why he would produce what he did for a public space.
First, he is incredibly naïve and really doesn’t understand the impact such images would have on people. Many children pass by his artwork on the “roundhouse” (which is at eye level), and most children are going to miss the metaphors. He may have been so focused on the message he wanted to convey he lost sight of other messages he was unconsciously sending. I still stand by my earlier statement that this public artwork is not a place for activism and advocacy, especially when it’s abusing images that are sacred to many.
The second possibility is that we have become so used to seeing Christians and their beliefs put down by the media that the artist simply thought that’s what people do. It’s part of our culture. He was shocked that someone would actually be offended by misusing Christian images and figures of Jesus Christ. Should we be surprised?
After all, we have comedians (such as Bill Mahr) putting down Christians at every opportunity. We have the entertainment industry taking swipes at Christianity and portraying Christians in an unfavorable light in movies and TV shows. While the media rightfully doesn’t put down African-Americans, Jewish people, and LGBT people because that’s considered terribly offensive, why are Christians the target of their ridicule? While Christians and the Church certainly aren’t perfect, what have we done to deserve this mistreatment?
In conclusion, I hope these offending pieces of art will be taken down before school starts so the hundreds of kids who pass by them on buses or while walking to school aren’t exposed to these images. I also hope that more people will protest the anti-Christian and anti-religion messages and offensive images when they appear. If enough people speak up, maybe our society will improve and there will be true tolerance in this country.