Thursday, February 21, 2013

Church framed by modern art

The connections between religion and culture are strange, unpredictable, and the source of endless social tension.  For centuries paintings of  obviously religious significance and intent lifted scenes lifted from scripture but depicted the characters in contemporary garb. No one thought a thing about Matthew sporting fashionable and fancy Italian pantaloons.   Nowadays, at least in the U.S., to depict Jesus, a carpenter, in overalls would be seen as scandalous, or at least ironic or intentionally inflammatory. Some of our notions of religion aren't exactly nutty, but they're so fixed--snatched from a more-or-less random moment in history--that our fixation with them as the only, or at least the iconic, way of doing things is irrational.  So for example, I'm sure the number of church steeples in early church history was exactly zero, but all of us today know, deep down, that God doesn't bother to visit steeple-less churches no matter what the closet hippy ministers of those places proclaim.  If God didn't want to hang out in churches with steeples, He wouldn't have given us hands and fingers to express, "Here is the church, here is the steeple...."

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