The Sacred and The Profane…Or At Least The Not-Very-Sacred

Lindsay Lohan did the controversial thing today (yes, AGAIN) by posing for some magazine (I think it’s about France) in the form of a crucifix, all dressed in white, with a crown of thorns on her head, lest you miss the symbolism.  I normally find her a guilty pleasure as tabloid fodder I shouldn’t look at, but do anyway.  Here, I think she’s just dumb.  There’s some talk in the article that I read that she’s a Buddhist, sort of. I think that means she has Henna tattoos, but I’m not sure.  There were people also saying that the picture was a mocking of her being “crucified” by the media. OK. I could almost see that, but again the picture just seems dumb and I’m not sure she actually understands the symbolism.

All of this reminds me of Solomon Rushdie and The Satanic Verses or the Beatles’ Ballad of John and Yoko which has as its chorus: “Christ, you know it’s not easy, you know how hard it could be, the way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me”.  McCartney wrote the latter for Lennon, but by this time, I don’t think they were good friends.  The song was considered blasphemous by conservative Christians in America who were already mad at Lennon for saying the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus Christ”.

I’m not sure that Lohan knows her picture’s controversal, or that it’s artistic enough to rise to the level of Rushdie or McCartney, but the other two seemed shocked — shocked!, I say — that people were upset about their artistic expression.

I just don’t buy it. While I never believe in violence (Rushdie was officially placed under fatwa — a religious hit order — by Muslim clerics), I can’t believe that people are somehow surprised by the anger their art generates. That is, while I don’t believe they should have wanted to killed him, I’m not surprised the more fundamentalist of Muslims were seriously upset.

Religion is the most valuable of values that people have in their lives. The idea that it  might upset someone when you  stomp on their core beliefs and the thing that gets them through when nothing else will, is somewhere between insensitive and just plain stupid.

And while I am scared to death by record-burnings in the same way I’m scared by book-burnings, and I see something demonic in them, I also understand being upset when someone denigrates your faith.  McCartney should have known better than to get Lennon and the Beatles in more trouble.

I love Freedom of Speech and understand intellectually that artists have the right to say what’s on their mind. But, on a gut level, a crucifix in urine doesn’t work for me. I think it’s disgusting.  I didn’t like a lot of Maplethorpe’s work and I can live the rest of my life without looking at it again.  You just don’t mess with Jesus, in my book. Or at least, you don’t do it without expecting me to be upset.

Please don’t confuse my opinions of real art’s statement with stupid publicity-seeking statements by religious people like Jerry Falwell’s worries about Tinky-Winky.  He was responding to a rumor about something he didn’t know about and just wanted to be in the papers.  Furthermore, people would take him seriously and act on his silliness. It’s a religious non-issue and we don’t need anymore non-issues to worry about in any part of our lives. It trivializes faith to pretend-worry about such things.

I guess, in all fairness, the balance between freedom of speech and religious symbolism comes down to this: Artists can create what they want. Just know that when they take someone’s faith as not important or invalid, people are going to be upset. They shouldn’t be stupid about it, or violent in any way, but they have a right to be upset.

Peace,

John

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