Yesterday and today, I am at the Diocese of Georgia's Priest Conference where our main speaker is the Rev. Dr. William Danaher, professor of Ethics at General Theological Seminary. He's been sharing with us from his book in progress called Fractures. In the book, he is trying to counter the typically American spirituality which wants to transcend the body rather than taking seriously our bodies and the human condition. Danaher counters that our bodies are how we encounter revelation as well as through the Body of Christ in communion and through the Body of Christ, the Church.
A stark example of the realness of bodily reality came as he shared with us a photograph, shown here. He said that the 1987 photo by Andres Serrano is beautiful, or at least that how it appears if we know nothing of it. But it became infamous by title of the image Piss Christ as it is a photograph of a plastic crucifix floating in the artist's own urine mixed with cows' blood.
Dr. Danaher then shared the poem Piss Christ by Andrew Hudgins which says in part,
If we did not know it was cow's blood and urine...Danaher pointed out the that desecration of the cross didn't work. The image is still beautiful. Agreeing with the poet, he said the sign value of Jesus' cross still shines through the blood and urine. All of this as we consider that God comes to us not in spite of our bodies and the human condition, but through our bodies and into the human condition.
we would assume it was too beautiful.
We would assume it was the resurrection,
glory, Christ transformed to light by light...
I remember hearing it said that St. Francis' idea of a living nativity (which he invented) was shocking as the animals in the live nativity can be smelly and do create unseemly messes. And yet it was to smelly humans who make messes that God became flesh in Jesus. So no matter the artists intent, which could be argued, the effect is still beautiful Danaher argues because the sign still works. The image still points to the core of the Christian teaching. The reality of the Incarnation comes through in the photo as it shows that God came to us in the real world in which we live.
What do you think? Not just about the photo, but about the idea that the Incarnation (God becoming flesh) means that God comes to us through our bodies and into the human condition. Or are we to always transcend the body to be merely spiritual beings? Or is there yet another option?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor