Following the flap over showing Mohammed’s likeness in a comic a few years ago and the recent destruction of a photograph showing a crucifix in urine, the natural question to ask is should religious iconography be banned from modern art or popular culture to prevent offending adherents to those religious beliefs?
Modern art, and art in general, tends to push the boundaries and offers insight into a particular topic. Popular culture is the same way, and in many cases, the two blend together seamlessly to create a true work of artistic joy.
So, when I hear about works of art being destroyed because of religious beliefs, I tend to react poorly. That said, the aspect of this story I want to discuss is just what I’ve asked above:
Should religious icons be represented in art and popular culture? Moreover, if the population of a particular religion is significantly higher, or is one of the worlds larger religions, like, say, Christianity, is it somehow immune to inclusion or social commentary in art or popular culture?
I would answer “No” to the last question. I would argue that because a particular religious group is one of the larger ones out there, then people need a way to reflect on it, and express their feelings about it, in an artistic fashion.
The same can be said of popular culture. Imagine how different our culture would be if not for the influence of Christianity. For good and mostly ill, Christianity has shaped American culture in many ways; from the morals that are taught to the very words we say (and what words are considered ‘polite’ and which are rude. Fuck is a rude word).
Does this, or should this, influence shield Christianity from social commentary or ridicule?
No. Absolutely not. Part of being one of the worlds largest religions is that you’ve become so large, you are a part of the Establishment and the Establishment is always open to social commentary and, if needed, ridicule. Oh, you like to paint yourselves as the “average person on the street,” but that’s a lie.
There are plenty of these so-called “mega churches” out there taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars a week and paying no taxes, all the while painting themselves as “protectors of the poor” and “champions of the downtrodden.” They say with one hand on the Bible and one in your wallet how they love God and Country, but pay no taxes to support it.
They scream “persecution” at any mention of ridicule or when they are called out on their hypocrisy. They fancy themselves the New American Aristocracy, the Privileged who dole out rights, like marriage, to those they feel are “worthy,” when, in fact, all they really want is to control your every thought and your very soul.
They are NOT immune to public ridicule, nor are they immune to social commentary, despite what their over-privileged sense of entitlement tells them.
So, the answer to my question, in plain language, is yes religious icons should be used in art and in popular culture. Art and pop culture holds up a mirror to the world. It shows us something, in many ways, unpopular, though it is something that needs to be shown. It is commentary, as rich and as diverse as the people who create it. It is not to be feared, but to be embraced.