Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Crucifixion of Christ

Politics and religion have been two topics that are never suppose to be talked about at dinner, and haven’t ever easily coincided with one another. There are two stances that one can pull from the scriptures of Jesus’ life, one is that he did not come into this world to take over governments, and the second is that if you put Christ at the head of the government all the problems of the world would be solved. The way politics and religion are currently in the United States is known as a separation between church and state, therefore the two topics should, on paper, never influence or conflict with one another. Separating the two would be nice if it were possible but there is no easy way to say that someone who grows up with views against abortion and gay-marriage wouldn’t persuade them to vote toward the conservative side. Also the conservative side can use these social issues to their advantage to win over the votes of people who hold those religious beliefs. The artist who’s painting I have chosen, Becki Jayne Harrelson, states that she paints the paintings she does because she is “interested in the transformative possibilities of deconstructing classical or mainstream spiritual representations so one can see that how God is constructed, so is the political power that impacts the human condition” (becki.jayne.com). Her focus is on the main political issues of current day society, and how they can relate back to stories from Jesus’ life. She paints to show that just as we know God to be defined, our reality and our laws are also defined in the same way, and the two will always influence one another. Everything that she paints, like most artist, has a basic meaning, however her point is that if you take the basic meaning of her art you will miss the underlying point of why she painted what she did. Her outlook on religion and politics is this, “America was founded by a people seeking freedom from religious persecution. Today, its Old World roots are showing. Mainstream religions shape the fundamental quality of life permeating every aspect, from prayer in schools to political actions” (becki.jayne.com).

The painting of Becki’s that I chose is called “The Crucifixion of Christ.” It is a picture of Jesus at his crucifixion, he is shedding blood from his hands and feet, on top of the mount, the sky is dark and there is a sign above his head that says “faggot” where in a typical crucifixion of Christ it would say something having to do with “King of the Jews.” The first reaction I had to this painting was initial shock that Becki would actually be attempting to say that Jesus was a homosexual. I questioned, “is that really what this political debate is coming to now?” First of all they legalize gay-marriage and now people are going to try to prove that Jesus was a homosexual? Then as I started to read about why she painted this I realized a completely different view. Becki starts off her background information on this painting, “you miss the primary point if you think I’m saying Jesus was gay” (becki.jayne.com). She then goes on to explain how she wanted to paint this picture to show how every time hatred and violence is used toward one another Christ is crucified. Becki says instead of the word faggot one could, “substitute the word Nigger, Jew boy, honkie, redneck, or bitch – it all means the same” (becki.jayne.com). Her reasoning behind choosing the word Faggot has to do with the way homosexuals are currently perceived in society, for the most part they are accepted by cultural means, however from a religious stand-point there is more hate than love being expressed toward homosexuals. Jesus in his time was also made a hate target, the Romans were threatened by him, many others were skeptic, and the citizens of Rome hated him so immensely that they had him crucified instead of a man who justifiably should have been killed. No matter what day and age daring to be different will probably make you a target for hate. Becki Jayne takes a liberal stance on gay-marriage, she sees us all to be children of God and to be comfortable living in our own skin and she thinks that there is no difference between someone who is a homosexual and someone who is left handed. She ends her description of the painting with this statement, “Religion judges homosexuality as sin. Seek God first and listen to no other authority. But beware. Ironically, such spiritual courage can lead to crucifixion” (becki.jayne.com). Becki wants to leave gay-Christians with hope in her painting, Jesus was persecuted for standing out against the religion in Rome, and homosexuals are standing out against what current day religions say about homosexuality, but she encourages them to go into the world, be themselves and they might be persecuted but sometimes that is the price you have to pay for others to live without pain. Biblically this can relate to the verse in John Chapter 18:36, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my Kingdom is from another place” (KJV). Jesus was crucified for following what he knew was true in his heart, knowing that regardless of what the Romans said or did, he would follow what he believed. That is what Becki wants her audience to do as well, stand up for what you believe is right, even if it leads you to crucifixion.

Becki Jayne is an innovative artist who is not afraid to take a leap of faith in her paintings by meshing largely debated issues with religion, even if it puts what we see as religion at stake. In a review of her art they state, “Becki Jayne Harrelson’s almost monumental canvases speak directly to that deeply felt realization that what we have been taught by most of our religious leaders is, to put it bluntly, crap” (becki.jayne.com). That is exactly right, she finds a way to paint in a way that to many it may seem offensive and against everything they have been taught, but that is her point. As Christians we need to take a stand against what is being taught in religions that aren’t changing with the times, and if that means someone speaking out for being a homosexual and being socially crucified, then so be it, Jesus did it too right? In conclusion religion and politics will always play a role in each other’s arguments; however it is up to the individual to decide what they want to believe in with both religious and political issues.


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