Lydster: an art debut at church

Honor Society

Jesus

My daughter had her art debut at our church on November 7. Actually, it was just outside the building, where we meet for coffee hour, weather permitting.

The church had acquired the piece of art, shown above. I was a tad confused when one of our pastors mentioned ME in the morning announcements. Oh, she saw the piece on my blog or my Facebook feed, which features my blog.

The pastor was so taken by it that my daughter was asked to make another one for the church. But the process was tedious, ripping up pieces of magazine pages – mostly Vanity Fair – and sorting the colors. She was disinclined to do it again. But she would consider parting with the original.

After it sat in our living room for well over a year, in no small part due to COVID, it finally got to church. After the unveiling, my daughter briefly talked about the meaning behind the work. She was trying to come up with a more representational Jesus while at the same time maintaining the beatific tradition. I annoyed her only slightly as I chatted with the church members about her fastidious process.

I’ve noted that my wife doesn’t often go to church in person these days. But both she and her mother, who’s moved to Albany in the past few months, attended.

One thing I had not noticed all the time the piece resided in our house. There are hymns, from a discarded hymnal in the background, but there are no titles or page numbers.

Also in November

There was an in-person ceremony for the new inductees for my daughter’s high school branch of the National Honor Society. The day before the event, she and her mother went shopping for a suitable dress. She and her friend since first grade, Kay, both were handing out the programs. When the school district newsletter came out a day or two later, both Kay and my daughter were featured.

Lydster: creating another Jesus

collage

JesusI was quite unclear what my daughter’s specific motivation was. Suddenly, she needed to cut up magazines, and sort the pieces by color. Bye bye, old, unread copies of Vanity Fair.

Then she did a couple of drawings on 8.5″ by 11″ paper, one in green, the other in blue. She added digits as though she were creating a paint-by-numbers. And she was, of a sort. She was creating a code for the different colors, and the gradation within the hues. Using the copier, she made the primary image larger.

Our church had disposed of some old hymnals a couple of years ago, and we had three or four copies. One of them died for her art, as she arranged the pages as her background. There was no musical theme involved, BTW.

The living room was quite a mess as she glued pieces on the image she had hand-drawn. Here’s the result of her collage of another Jesus portrayal. It is roughly 30″ by 40″.

Is heaven segregated?

I found an interesting interview from NPR in June 2020. The Rev. Lenny Duncan is a black preacher in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. his 2019 book is Dear Church: A Love Letter From a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US.

A couple quotes: “One of the things I talk about in the book is [the symbolism of Advent] — painting blackness as always in darkness, always as evil and bad, further away from the light of God and all that kind of language we use in our worship.”

And: “I believe that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wants to be better. They just don’t know how. One of the things that we often underestimate with the power of white supremacy is that the people who are the sickest from it, often do not know that they are infected with it.”

The philosophers of the 18th and 19th century codified that notion. In Philosophy of History (Chapter 2), Voltaire argued that blacks were a separate, lesser species. Europeans felt the need to justify their discriminatory treatment of non-Europeans. So-called “empirical methods” readily allowed them to conclude that Indians and Africans were inferior people.

At some level, my daughter, who was in her confirmation class only last year, must be intuitively aware of all of this. We haven’t had specific conversations about what Jesus looked like. Her rendering of another Jesus is her truth.

Keeping those white Jesus statues

Images besides Warner Sallman’s

head of christMy utter fascination with the physical portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth is well established. For instance, was Jesus homely?

In a recent discussion, someone noted that the conversation about Jesus’ skin tone was not important. I would argue that while it may be a prosaic issue, it is also significant. Otherwise, why was FOX News’ Megyn Kelly so insistent, back in 2013, that Jesus, and Santa, were white?

I rather like James Martin, S.J. in America: the Jesuit Review. “Jesus was not white. Here’s why we should stop pretending he was.” As in that very famous image by Warner Sallman that existed in my grandmother’s house.

Martin says: “Images of White Jesus have obviously been used to promote the idea that white is best… And that has the most terrible effects on people who do not look like that. I’m reminded of Toni Morrison’s magnificent novel ‘The Bluest Eye,’ where the young girl believes that whiteness is beautiful. If Jesus is white and you’re not, what does that say about your relationship with him? What does it mean that Christ came for ‘all,’ if you feel left out?”

What color is your Jesus?

Emily McFarlan Miller describes How Jesus became white, which I think it’s important to understand. But the title continues, “and why it’s time to cancel that.” (My comfort toward even the term cancel culture is fairly tenuous.)

She quotes Edward J. Blum, who co-authored the 2014 book The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. He said “many Christians remain hesitant to give up the image of white Jesus. He believes the continued popularity of white depictions of Jesus is ‘an example of how far in some respects the United States has not moved. If white Jesus can’t be put to death, how could it possibly be the case that systemic racism is done? Because this is one that just seems obvious. This one seems easy to give up.'”

I need to unpack that. Unlike say, the Confederate stats and bars, I had not experienced a clear historic movement that to rid ourselves of the white Jesus. And I think the notion of “giving Him up” is not obvious and very much not easy. There have been hundreds of years of paintings, stained glass, and figurines. When activist Shaun King said that ‘White Jesus’ statues should come down, I was not on board. King, who I learned about from my daughter, is a pretty savvy guy, but I disagree with him here.

Conversely, I AM fond of the notion of more and different portrayals of Jesus. Jemar Tisby, author of the 2019 best-seller “The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” believes there’s no “one depiction that is coming to the fore… I think [that] is illustrative that people are resisting a monolithic vision of Jesus’ embodied self and, and understanding that his very incarnation — the fact that God became a human being in itself — is a way of identifying with all peoples everywhere.”

Ides of March rambling: Jesus Was a Socialist

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable. Understand – Aubrey Logan, Rebecca Jade on background vocals.

Pandora's Inbox
Pandora’s Inbox by Dave Coverly. used with permission
www.speedbump.com
Obituary of legendary Albany activist Vera P. Michelson, known to most everyone as Mike.

Thirteenth (2016 documentary about the 13th Amendment).

Patheos: Jesus Was a Socialist.

Listen, papa: let priests marry.

Buddhist robot priest to dole out advice in Kyoto temple.

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn: I Need Help (First Sunday of Lent).

The best thing to give up this Lent is plastic.

Political Notebook: Stupidity and hope.

The Balloon Pops on His Economic Promises.

How to Spot Fake News Online.

Activity At 2nd North Korean Missile Site Indicates Possible Launch Preparations, so the fact that rump and Kim failed to reach a breakthrough in Hanoi may be for the best.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Five years on, here’s why people still believe the conspiracy theories.

Before We Even Think about Candidates for 2020.

Cartoon: A very Peanuts third-party candidate.

More local meteorologists are using their air time to bring climate change down to street level and communicate what this crisis means for their viewers’ everyday lives.

Where is Congress’ Center on Climate Change?

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable.

Jaquandor: On Writing Longhand.

Think you know Abraham Lincoln? New photos reveal the man behind the legend.

The inspiring story of H’Hen Niê, who won Miss Universe Vietnam 2017.

Do Grammar Mistakes Annoy You? You Might Be an Introvert.

Movement And Breathing Breaks Help Students Stay Focused On Learning.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: robocalls and automation and psychics.

How to make “New York style pizza” at home. (n.b.: too much work for me!)

The People Who Eat the Same Meal Every Day.

Hate tried to come for Brie Larson. Captain Marvel destroyed them.

Boney – a television drama with the worst casting gimmick ever.

Now I Know: New York City’s Secret (Tiny) Subway and Arresting the Rooster and The Writing Was on the Wall and When a Baseball Team Traded for Runs and Too Much Hare in Your Ear and Bernie Madoff’s Other Swiss Bank Account and The Hole Truth About Ballpoint Pens and Domo Arigato, Mr. Robutto and Darts Darts Bo Barts Bananafana Fo… Uh Oh.

STAR WARS: ALWAYS.

AND

Execute order 66.

Loud music.

MUSIC

Understand – Aubrey Logan, Rebecca Jade on background vocals.

The revolution will not be televised – Soul Rebels club mix.

Gustav Holst’s The Planets – Jupiter, scored for five pianos.

Everything Changes – Eytan and The Embassy, also Star Wars parody, plus the identities revealed of the original video.

Coverville: 1253: Tributes for Peter Tork of the Monkees and Mark Hollis of Talk Talk and 1254: Cover Stories for The Who and Townes Van Zandt.

RIP, Hal Blaine of The Wrecking Crew, Hall of Fame drummer.

Andre Previn has died at age 89.

K-Chuck Radio: The “cover band” phase of popular bands and Olivia Newton-John does make you feel mellow.

Monkees Screen Tests

NPR’s ‘Jazz Profiles’, hosted by Nancy Wilson; Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’ (2001).

They Really Don’t Make Music Like They Used To.

Easter AND April Fool’s Day

One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general.

There’s probably some sort of theological joke I should make here, how, after Easter, when most of the disciples saw Jesus, doubting Thomas, who was not present, said, “You’re kidding me!”

The last time Easter was on April 1 was in 1956; no wonder I don’t remember it. But before that, it was in 1945, 1934, and 1923, each eleven years apart. There was another wave in the 19th century: 1888, 1877, 1866, eleven years apart.

After 2018, it’ll happen again in 2029 and 2040. Yup, 11 years. This kind of thing fascinates me.

So why is it that modern Christianity isn’t appealing to more people? Is it that secularism is “winning”?

Or is it that some folks, purporting to lift the Christian banner, foolishly embrace concepts that do not seem to be consistent with Jesus’ teachings of feeding the hungry and welcoming the outcast? Those looking from the outside may think, understandably, “If THAT is Christianity, to hell what that!”

Interesting results of some Pew Research polling in the last couple years:

The term “spiritual but not religious” label applies to a growing share of Americans. And the methodology was fascinating – The survey “asked two separate questions: ‘Do you think of yourself as a religious person, or not?’ and ‘Do you think of yourself as a spiritual person, or not?’ The results presented here are the product of combining responses to those two questions.”

A growing share of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral. Interestingly, “attitudes about the necessity of belief in God for morality have also changed among those who do identify with a religion.”

And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood. “One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”

Having gone about 360 degrees in my own religious quest – no, that’s not correct, since I didn’t end up in the same place as I started – I understand more than most the feelings of those who believe in God and those who don’t.

I DO wish each side could find a way to hear the other’s point of view. But perhaps that’s my own foolishness.

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