With All Due Respect

There has been an uproar lately in Philippine media about an offensive artwork that has actually merited a whole exhibition getting shut down after much debate. It just so happened that those against it are mostly older people in power, while those who found no offense but found it food for thought are the younger generation. At least, from the news, that’s what I gather.

And so Mideo Cruz’ Kulo, which, as I read, features an ashtray with a male sex organ pasted on the face on a crucifix, was condemned. Even vandalized: yup, people actually came into the exhibit and vandalized it. Debates were formed. The distinguished were called in. Old awards earned by the administrator are being considered “given in error.” The former First Lady, who set up the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was outraged. The President stepped in.

I even saw a blog – http://jessaemiel.blogspot.com/2011/08/weapons-for-religious-destruction.html – that said Mideo Cruz violated the law on Religious Rights.

Two personal friends I respect gave me thoughtful insights to the whole reaction going on:

It all boils down to whether an artist believes that God is the source of his talent or not! i wouldn’t bite God’s hand, would you? and if they believe Jesus is the Son of God, and in the values of Christianity, isn’t it only right to show love & respect for Him through our art?” — Jovianney Emmanuel “John-Em” Cruz

There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities so we act as though they don’t exist. – The Wizard, in Wicked …and so many more who, afraid that their minds are too puny to handle the difference between objective reality and what represents it, act as if the representation were the sacred, as if the sacred could be limited to the material…” — Sam Prudente

The blog I mentioned says: “This is the only we can do as Christians; follow the due process of law than declaring a holy war against these artists.  Even in the Bible, the Old Testaments, those who are guilty of Blasphemy is punishable by death even in the New Testaments. That is why Jesus was crucified because he was accused of Blasphemy.” (that’s copy-pasted, unedited)

Hmmm….

Yes, Jesus was crucified for blasphemy. But Jesus was telling the truth about God and the religious elite of his time. If you will call Mideo Cruz’ art blasphemy, then why don’t we consider the possibility that he is also saying something true about God and the religious elite of our times?

The very fact that there are icons and images that are supposedly “representing” God is a violation of the 2nd commandment of His 10 Commandments. If there is any insult to God being done here, it is the image and idols, and not the wooden penis ashtray stuck to the face of the idol. Yes, Mideo Cruz insulted the RELIGION, but that doesn’t mean he insulted God. Was it not religion who started the insults by openly disobeying God’s command to “not make an idol or image of anything in heaven above, earth below or the sea beneath to bow down before them and worship them”? Mideo Cruz, as pointed out, violated the law of the land.

But this land has been violating the Second Commandment of the Law of God far longer.

While I do not agree with Mideo Cruz insulting the images via his art, the uproar in defense of the images is so revealing of the state of the heart of this country: we get angry when someone insults the idols we put up, but we keep quiet in the face of acts that desecrate the true image of God.

PEOPLE.

Is Mideo Cruz insulting an idol worse than government office workers asking for bribes — excuse me, “facilitation fees” — in front of their crucifixes, ‘Mama Mary’s, and Santo Ninos, or a member of the clergy asking for an expensive vehicle from the profits of the gambling institutions his religion condemns? Not to mention stories upon stories of priests taking sexual advantage of women and children — both boys and girls — in their parishes. And what of rape, prostitution, white slavery, and the greedy who take advantage of the poor, making them think that selling themselves is the only way for them to survive?

Like it or not, Mideo Cruz, as a human being, is created in the image of God. But like John-Em said, he seems to not recognize God or Jesus as the Son of God, or he would not have used the images he did for his artwork. But is the Christian reaction to this flawed image of God faithful to the redeemed image of God we now supposedly have, having received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and having the Holy Spirit indwelling us, as we claim? Do we really believe that if Jesus were here, He would condemn Mideo Cruz? Or would He stoop down, write on the ground, and tell the indignant crowd, “whoever of you has no sin, cast the first stone,” then tell Mideo after that He does not condemn him, giving Mideo a glimpse of the true nature of God?

If the Christian church truly thinks that Mideo Cruz is crazy, a spawn of hell and should be thrown in jail, or worse, put to death (because blasphemy is punishable by death, according to the Law of Moses), what is the response that will most reflect Christ to Mideo Cruz: condemning him? Or reaching out to him and showing him who Jesus truly is?

Throw the book at him?

Or explain the Book to him?

Mideo Cruz has stated he sees his work as a critique. Isn’t it so typical of the critiqued to lash back when exposed, rather than see if the critique has merit, and then give a good defense?

I love what my friend Sam said: “as if the representation were the sacred, as if the sacred could be limited to the material.”

I think the real uproar in Mideo Cruz’ work is not the insult to the material representation, but the exposition of our guilt:

WE HAVE BEEN INSULTING THE GOD WE SAY WE WORSHIP BY BRINGING HIM DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF SCULPTED WOOD AND PLASTER, AND ELEVATING OUR IDOLS TO THE THRONE ONLY HE SHOULD OCCUPY.

And selfish, perverted responses to God-given human passions is the foremost idol of mankind.

An old saying goes: “If you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, the one who barks loudest is the one who got hit.”

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