Posted by: sarahkennedy33 | August 7, 2007

That’s Not My Jesus…Or Is It?

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been taking a second intensive class this past week, and it is still a wonderful class! Today our professor was trying to make the point that when we come approach scripture, we have to allow people to ask questions of it, to wonder about it, to allow it to speak, to not be afraid to realize that scripture is not black and white all the time–but that does not have to be a bad thing. He wanted to let us experience this for ourselves, to help us realize what it feels like to come to something and allow everyone in the room to voice their questions or comments no matter how different from one another our opinions were. So to do so, he used artwork. He found nine paintings done throughout various time periods and in various countries, all depicting in their own way the crucifixion of Jesus. He left each painting up on the screen for 3 minutes and then silently went to the next one, asking us to simply reflect in silence on each painting. After the 1/2 hour was up we discussed each painting as a class, voicing aloud the things we were wondering about what the artist was thinking, what their life experience was that caused them to depict the event in such a way, what our thoughts or reactions were to each piece of art. It was a fascinating exercise, and I found a painting that I fell in love with (so did many others in my class) that I wanted to share. This photo appeared on the screen and was met with much surprise from people. We weren’t aloud to talk yet, so we silently reflected on it. When it came time to share our thoughts on this painting, the reactions were fascinating. Many students (including myself) absolutely fell in love with it, and some didn’t. At first.

This painting is called “Beneath the Cross” and was painted by a Catholic priest, Father Jim Hasse. I think that the comment that helps sums up our class conversation the best was from a young, white, man who said that when the picture first appeared on the screen his first reaction was “no way, that’s not MY Jesus, that’s got to be some feminist theologian trying to make some political statement.” As he sat with it, he said that he started feeling drawn to it, but couldn’t figure out why. He shared at the end of our class discussion that he realized that’s not what the artist was trying to convey at all. This wasn’t painted by someone trying to convince people Jesus was a woman–not at all. Rather the message of this painting is exactly what Galatians 3:28 says–in Christ, and at the cross, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one. In our class discussion, many women and many people of different ethnicities mentioned that it was incredibly moving and powerful to be able to see themselves in the crucifixion story–that this painting isn’t saying Jesus WAS a woman, but rather that Jesus DIED for all. We all belong on that cross, but out of his immense love for us, we don’t actually have to take that place, Jesus took it for us, for all of us. The one student, who was at first so turned off by this piece, said very honestly, “I am so used to seeing Jesus depicted in most western art as a caucasian male with brown hair, and it is so easy for me to connect with that image of salvation because I can see myself in the Savior. I never considered what it would be like to never be able to recognize myself in any of these paintings. This painting seems like it could be used to start some incredibly healing conversations with people who have been wounded by the church, by men, or by people of different skin colors. I was wrong, that IS my Jesus, and I am so humbled by the fact that Jesus really did die for ALL, and somehow our churches have to get better at communicating that fact.” Well, maybe art, when used properly in worship, could be one step on that healing journey. The hope in this picture is absolutely beautiful to me–as someone pointed out in class, it looks more like a resurrection painting rather than a crucifixion as she appears to be rising off the cross. May we all make more time to ask questions, to look at Jesus with new eyes, and to pray for the healing that so many need so badly in our world and in our churches.

Another piece of art I discovered this week, that I would highly recommend is the movie Elizabethtown, staring Orlando Bloom and Kirstin Dunst. I put it on last night so I could multi-task to it and get stuff done around my apartment, but had to stop about 1/2 way through and just sit and watch. We’ve been talking a lot in class this week about journeys, and how people journey through grief, journey from alienation to acceptance, and journey from hatred to love–and Elizabethtown was a wonderful story of a young man’s journey to loving himself, his family, and his life. Next time you’re at Blockbuster, definitely check this one out!

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