22.1.12

Christian Visual Imagery

Some facts and considerations

Sacred Heart
What is the aim of the visual images in the Catholic religion? Are they some sort of idolatry? Don't they contradict the example of Abraham, who in the pagan Chaldea destroyed the idols his father fabricated? Do such images transgress the notions expressed in the Commandments? See Exodus 20:3-5 and Deuteronomy 5:7-9
Considering the traditional idea of Imitatio Christi, are the images used in the Catholic religion compatible at all with Jesus's own example? Moreover, did Jesus ever bow down to an idol?

Jesus was respectful of the Mosaic tradition: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing 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 worship them; for I, the Lord your God" (Exodus 20: 3-4 and Deuteronomy 5:7-8).

And the same concerns the Apostles, did they ever pray to images showing Jesus or the Virgin Mary?

Catholic imagery: Res católica in Museo de San Juan, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Virgin of Puy, Sacred Heart Virgins, Allegory of the Triumphant Church and Nocturnal Virgin.

Do the images of the Catholic church relate to idolatry? Yes? No? Why?

The pagan legacy: the beautiful as the good and the true

A nineteenth-century sentimentally-conceived Jesus. The image transmits tenderness but also a colonialist ideal that is both Eurocentric and racist.

Iconographic abuse: a fashionable phenomenon

Iconographic appropriation and abuse of Christian imagery: The Passion of the Christ is used by Gibson to promote sadomasochism in extremis; Buddy Christ is practically a cartoon character; Mary transformed into a disposable container; Santa Claus crucified under the Star of Bethlehem; Jesus smiles while showing a tattoo with a Latin cross that literally penetrates the heart of God the Father; Jesus as soccer trainer; the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Lamb of God decorating ordinary wrist watches.

"Buddy Christ" scene from Kevin Smith's film Dogma, 1999. Cardinal Glick: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now we all know how the majority and the media in this country view the Catholic church. They think of us as a passe, archaic institution. People find the Bible obtuse... even hokey. Now in an effort to disprove all that the church has appointed this year as a time of renewal... both of faith and of style. For example, the crucifix. While it has been a time honored symbol of our faith, Holy Mother Church has decided to retire this highly recognizable, yet wholly depressing image of our Lord crucified. Christ didn't come to Earth to give us the willies... He came to help us out. He was a booster. And it is with that take on our Lord in mind that we've come up with a new, more inspiring sigil. So it is with great pleasure that I present you with the first of many revamps the "Catholicism WOW!" campaign will unveil over the next year. I give you... The Buddy Christ. Now that's not the sanctioned term we're using for the symbol, just something we've been kicking around the office, but look at it. Doesn't it... pop? Buddy Christ..."

Pseudo-scientific speculation: adding salt to the wounds

Hypothetic reconstruction of Jesus' appearance, United Kingdom, BBC, 2001.[1] Unlike the nineteenth-century Euro-Jesus, this one is from the Middle East and his features recall those of a primitive man who escaped some a natural sciences museum.

"The exercise in reconstruction is pointless." -Catherine Bennett, The Guardian

For a discussion, see Giles Wilson, So What Colour was Jesus?, BBC News Online Magazine, 27.10.2004; Forensic Image, Rejesus, Faces of Jesus; and Mike Fillon, The Real Face of Jesus, Popular Mechanics, 7.12.2002.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Youth Jew portrayed as Christ, oil, 17th century. Inviting meditation, Rembrandt's painting suggests the triumph of spirituality over matter. The image is not supposed to be worshiped but contemplated.

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