CCP, Obscenity, and Modern Idolatry

The cross with an exposed sex organ? Obscene, isn’t it? But if we would rely on historical sources, the truth of crucifixion was more obscene that those pictures. Have you ever pictured Jesus naked on the cross, with exposed genitals and all?

Perhaps we can accept a gross depiction of a big wound near the lower ribs but can we accept a Jesus naked? If not it is probably because we have been used to pictures of Jesus Christ on a cross with some underclothes.

But historical sources would even indicate to us that the Roman crucifixion was done to publicly humiliate the one crucified, thus there are sources that depict the actual historical Christ exposed. Michaelangelo for one, made a sculpture of such a naked crucified man he depicted as Jesus.

Crucifix, sculpture by Michelangelo, Santo Spirito Church, Florence, Italy (ca. 1494), a depiction of naked crucifixion with the genitals of the condemned exposed

Michaelangelo is truly an artist par excellence. In fact many of his sculptures and images are naked. Nakedness as he might believe, is a sign of innocence.  And truly understandably, that is why his sculpture of David is also naked.

Why then is there such a fuss when an artist puts forth installation arts on CCP?  It has torn the whole Philippine nation in a debating mode once again. The Catholic Church has spoken, then the Senate, then the President of the Phlippines.

So, am I endorsing Mideo Cruz? Make no mistake, I do not condone any such depictions. I would even consider the art of Cruz as rubbish and cowardly. Rubbish because art should highlight beauty and truth. I sound like Imelda Marcos but in the rare times, I think she is correct with this one.

But you counter, there is such a thing as ‘ugly truth.’ Yes I agree. But you don’t publicly exhibit those most of the time. If Mideo Cruz publicly exposes his sex organ on the street, you would not call that ‘art.’ You call that indecency. Artists can call that freedom of expression but my golly, if your freedoms offend me as well as tens and thousands of people, that’s not art, that’s perversion.

I also think it’s cowardly. Why? Because Mideo Cruz only insulted the Catholic side of the equation. I haven’t heard of his installation containing the Muslim Allah or Quran, or any other faith. His was just an expression of polytheism using Catholic images and sacred pieces. If this is really ‘polytheism’ why did he not include images of other faiths? I tell you what, it’s because people like Mideo Cruz are afraid of offending the Muslims. His neck would surely be on the line if he does. There is a line as far as his artistic expression is concerned. It’s what you call the fear of death. Isn’t this true, Mideo Cruz?

But for Catholics, he will have his heyday. He knows those who make vigils to the Black Nazarene are supposed to be kind. If you slap them on the left cheek, they would give their right. So never mind if you put an image of a penis on a venerated picture of what some believe as a picture of Jesus Christ. They would be kind, they might become angry, but injure the artist? “No!” Artists like Mideo Cruz would probably answer. Christians are Mickey Mouse kind.

And so here is my two-cents as far as those images are concerned: I think this is not art. It’s what you call the act of insult. Insult is not art, though I have to admit, some people can do it artistically. But outright insult is not art. It’s offensive. Insult can be done artistically but not this way. At least not in Mideo Cruz’s way.

But you know after the fire has died down, perhaps there is some good on all this indecency. It can make us think and ponder things beside the pictures.

What if it’s true that God went to such indecency to accomplish a purpose? What if He did that for you. I don’t mean him, or her. I mean you. You who are reading this. 

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame….

(Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

But you’d probably would not believe that. That is something art cannot really portray. Only truth can, and only if you are made to believe it.

Suddenly, I am reminded of the commandment in Exodus 20. What if, even the best of our sculptures are an abomination to the Lord? As far as the Bible is concerned, every picture venerated has an X-rated thing to it. Yes, including the ones you put in those altars.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

(Exodus 20:4-5 ESV)

If the above is true, every venerated image is obscene, no different from Mideo Cruz’s art. Maybe Mideo Cruz’s art is Mickey Mouse if that is true.

If the Bible is true, here’s what its New Testament part says.

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed…”

(Acts 17:29-31 ESV)

And that Man, by implication, is an enemy of idols.

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