Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


R-rated Post

The title is not a joke. This may not be for everyone and if you are easily offended, please give it a miss. I assume that I don't get a lot of under 17 readers and so will tell about what I have been hearing and thinking about.

photo by Andres SerranoYesterday 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...
we would assume it was too beautiful.
We would assume it was the resurrection,
glory, Christ transformed to light by light...
Danaher pointed out the that desecration of the cross didn't work. The image is still beautiful. William Danaher holding up the image Piss ChristAgreeing 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.

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

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  • At 5/08/2007 9:58 AM, Blogger Huw Raphael said…

    Hello Father...

    This year's excitement - the 200lb Chocolate Jesus had the audacity to show an anatomically correct and naked Jesus (who happened to appear African because of the medium). The gallery received death threats from conservative Catholics.

    We've not learned anything since 1987

  • At 5/08/2007 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Comment about Chocolate Jesus
    I think the artist missed the point and he could have made it
    a beautiful piece of art had he covered the private area with a leaf or piece of muslin or designed it in such a way for the imagination of the viewer. I didn't really think it appeared as a black Jesus. I am an artist, but would never disrespect Jesus in publicly displaying the private parts, especially being made of a substance to eat. I found that more offensive than anything.


  • At 5/09/2007 8:51 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    The question for me has always been whether the artist was trying to bring attention to himself by shocking us. Are we really so jaded that we can't be reminded that Jesus was probably a dark-skinned, smelly, dirty man who probably needed a shave, haircut, and some clean clothes in less offensive ways?

    It's all well and good to shake us up but as Christians we should keep our focus on Christ and not some person whose motives are questionable.

  • At 5/09/2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A thought on the Piss Christ: First, it had been a while since I had seen Piss Christ, and I had forgotten what it looked like. When he passed the image around, I thought it WAS beautiful. In fact, I still do, which honestly makes me a little uncomfortable. The poem quotes Augustine as saying we are born between urine and feces, which, of course, we are. The incarnation puts God into a world of blood and urine; God incarnate being the person of Jesus Christ. For me, the crucifix alone represents God's incarnation. The blood and sweat on the corpus alone clearly presents that image. To have the image of incarnation immersed in another image of incarnation seems to me to suggest that being on the cross wasn't enough to portray God made flesh. Almost as if the cross needs some help in sending the message. Maybe having the crucifix immersed in blood and urine is too close to Black Mass for me. One thing I do know, I think the picture is beautiful.

    The Reverend Steve Rice
    Rector, St Michael's Episcopal Church
    Waynesboro, Georgia


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