Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Real" Religion

Religion can be beautiful—the ritual, biblical poetry, and certainly it has inspired some of the most breath-taking works of art known to us. BUT, religion can also be brutal and its history reflects many of humankind’s basest impulses. As for the Christian Bible, whether one believes the text is received truth or largely human embellishment (as I do), even fabrication, to ignore the vile and violent means that half of the story, the human story, is lost.

So it is with some relish, I note two recent attempts at underscoring the ‘real’ of religion, or at least of Christianity. The first is an exhibit at London’s National Gallery called The Sacred Made Real and largely revolves around Spanish paintings (e.g., Velasquez and Zurbaron) of the 17th century. As you can see by the illustration I’ve included, the art looks almost contemporary, at least from the distance of my 17 inch computer screen. I hope to make it to London to see it up close.

The second effort I want to note is an illustrated Book of Genesis just released by controversial artist Robert Crumb. Not surprisingly (Crumb is the creator of Fritz the Cat, a sexually graphic "underground" comic strip) and according to reviews I’ve seen, the book is shock-your-grandmother explicit. The book depicts, as recorded in the Bible, people actually having sex (e.g., Lot does indeed have incestuous sex with his two daughters) and there is a lot of violence. Of course, these pictures have been greeted by hostility by most church leaders, but that they accurately depict the goings-on in Genesis cannot be denied.

I'm keeping my eye out for a cheap flight to London this Fall, and I am definitely ordering Robert Crumb's book, if just to support the author.

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