Desecration as Art
by Roderick T. Beaman
Religion has always been fodder for satire, especially for the sophomoric. In high school and college, it's almost a rite of passage. I participated in a few events myself, I'm not proud to admit, but then I grew up. Over the past several years, this satirical bent has deteriorated into desecration.
There was the artistic' achievement of Andres Serrano with Piss Christ'. Using a grant from The National Endowment for The Arts, Serrano produced photographs, including one of a crucifix immersed in a beaker of his own urine. If there was anything special about Serrano's urine, it escaped most observers. I tended to wonder whether I should have preserved some of the specimens that I left in the snow after fraternity beer parties for a possible NEA grant also but I digress. There was a predictable outcry from religious authorities across the country and a refrain from the subsequent usual parade of Leftist Glitterati who weighed in about artistic freedom.
This was followed within the past two years by an exhibit
at The Brooklyn Museum of Art that had among its offerings for public viewing,
a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary that used elephant dung as one of its
Once more, many religious leaders expressed their outrage
and Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off public funding. Hillary
Clinton weighed in with support for the museum. The museum authorities
protested that in Africa, elephant dung is often used in art but Brooklyn,
probably to the chagrin of the politically correct, is not in Africa.
Once more, the Leftist Glitterati and various civil libertarians gnashed their teeth as they howled censorship'. This time, the gnashers and howlers included Susan Sarandon who never seems to tire of taking herself too seriously.
To show how little the museum managers had learned, it followed up with another exhibit that included a picture called "Yo' Mama's Last Supper" with Jesus as a black female and another protest developed.
Most recently, a museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico displayed a work by a woman named Alma Lopez who identifies herself as a Chicana lesbian. It had Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is sacred to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, dressed in a floral bikini.
The display was criticized by Archbishop Michael Sheehan as offensive who opined that therefore it should not have been given the appearance of official endorsement by display in a publicly funded museum.
As a Chicana lesbian', it's not a stretch that her political sympathies probably lie, way over there on the loony left. We can just see her out there for a drive with her bumpers festooned with stickers from The National Organization of Women, Gore/Lieberman, Pro-Child/Pro-Choice etc. Of course, she's driving a Volvo.
Now, satire has always been and always will be a valid art
form but why does The Left embrace religious satire and why is desecration
of Christian, especially Catholic, symbols so often the focal point?
Would they enjoy a sculpture of Jesse Jackson eating a watermelon or maybe
fornicating and producing more illegitimate children? How about a skit
with Franklin Delano Roosevelt stumbling around on a pair of rubber crutches
or a play paralleling his economic policies with those of Adolf Hitler?
They were, after all, both based on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes.
Or a ballet featuring dancers in Ku Klux Klan robes at a lynching with a burning
cross? Or a skit of a homosexual AIDS victim in death throes? And for
a coup-de-disgrace, perhaps a production of dancers in SS uniforms around
a crematorium? Now wouldn't those be knee-slappers worthy of an NEA
grant? No, Catholicism is the approved target. The reason is simple.
The Left desires to replace the worship of God through religion with the worship
of man through the religion of government. Catholicism is the strongest
continuous Christian institution for the worship of God. The other
bulwark of Western Civilization is Judaism which presents some problems for
Hitler and The Nazis were socialists, a fact which is, conveniently,
never mentioned by The Left. National Socialism presented them with
some problems right from the start. It was socialism (Yay!) but
a different sort from Soviet Communism (Yay or Boo?), later competition (Boo!),
an ally (Yay!) and finally a mortal enemy (Boo! Boo! Boo!).
Europe's Jews were the most famous victims of the Nazis' psychopathic agenda, so care would have to be taken lest satire of Judaism, by anyone, be interpreted as anti Semitism. But there was another problem lurking. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the most anti-Semitic regime in the world was Stalin's gangsters and their successors. Satire of Judaism might prompt a closer examination of the precepts of The Left, including International Revolutionary Socialism (the true name of communism), National Socialism and American liberalism which could lead to the discovery of their common anti-Semitic underpinnings. (No, no, no. Don't tread there. Stick with Christianity. Much safer.)
So, satire of Judaism and its symbols became off limits.
This writer can only recall two instances of satire directed against things
Jewish. There were the SuperJew posters of the sixties and Saturday
Night Live's Hanukah Harry. The characters are Hasidim who may have
been chosen as much for their appearances with their plain black clothes,
beards and hats as for their religion. In both of those cases, the spoof
was directed against the people rather than Judaism itself or its symbols.
Now, you would think that with The Left's liberalism' and appreciation
of the ridiculous, it would find itself, a valid source of material for the
satirist's barbs but think again. They are just so good hearted and
well meaning that they are above such things. It's only traditional
values and conservatives that are permissible targets. Rush Limbaugh's
stock in trade is ridicule of liberals, not minorities and women as The Left
maintains. Look at how he is treated by them.
And if there is any doubt that liberals can dish it out but can't take it, look at the case of Tom Wolfe. Wolfe had written a number of books and essays describing the various lifestyles and mindsets of the sixties. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test', The Pump House Gang' and others brought fame and adulation to him. He got into the heads of the subjects like a good actor might do and articulated their world-views like a good novelist might do.
Then he made the mistake of turning his attentions to The Left in "Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers', two hilarious chronicles of leftist foibles. Radical Chic' was a devastating lampoon of Leonard Bernstein and the party that he held for the Black Panthers. Bernstein was a darling of the New York arts scene with numerous liberal and even communist associations and Tom Wolfe's essay made Bernstein into a buffoon.
The storm of criticism that descended on Wolfe reached a fever pitch and suddenly he was a pariah. It was a perfect example of liberal tolerance and sense of humor. I am a white, libertarian, pro-life Catholic physician with ambitions, maybe delusions, of becoming a full time writer. I've written poetry, songs, a novel and I'm working on a second plus I write opinion pieces such as this. That probably qualifies me as artistic but I take a very dim view of government support of the arts. Where public money goes, politics and government control follow.
The artistic Left wants government subsidies for everything,
including themselves, and they never seem to mind the consequent controls
that inevitably follow for everyone but themselves.
It doesn't work that way. They should read Wickard v. Filburn that states, It's hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes'. As far as art goes, if some misanthropic moron wants to defecate on a creche, spit on a statue of The Blessed Virgin, vomit on a crucifix or urinate on a mezuzah, call it art and get some other cretins to pay to watch, because this is a free country, I'll cut him the slack and let him do it. I'll resist for the time being, the urge to punch the jerk in the mouth and call that a type of performance art. Just don't ask me to subsidize it.