Monday, November 29, 2010
Strangers in a Strange Land?
Strangers in a Strange Land?
By Tom Wachunas
If you’re looking for another art review here, the best I can offer this time around is what you could call “The Consumer’s Art of Feckless Christmas Spirit.” In her Sunday Repository column (November 28), Charita Goshay seemed to subtly parallel the hysteria over airport body searches (which she called “…just the latest fishy controversy in a school of red herrings”) with a larger malaise at work in America. We want what we want when we want it. In the midst of consumer angst and demands over the economy, she reminded her readers that some retailers were open for business on Thanksgiving Day, noting that, “Economically speaking, we have to be encouraged by any uptick in consumer spending, but it is also disheartening that we can’t seem to take off even one day to decompress.” Disheartening? I think Goshay is being a bit too kind. It’s downright tragic. Decompress? The whole engine needs to be replaced.
With what? One look at the image accompanying this post will probably clue you in as to where this is leading, but nonetheless, I ask your indulgence as you read on. Call it sermonizing if you wish, but I just call it speaking my heart. In the last several years of teaching the Art Survey course at Kent Stark, I’ve never been comfortable with the text book dating notations for the art works we examine. The old ‘B.C.’ (before Christ) and ‘A.D.’ (anno Domini- “in the year of our Lord”) designations have been replaced with BCE and CE, respectively. The translations of these increasingly visible designations read “before the common era” and “common era.” Some scholars and readers translate the ‘C’ as ‘current’ and, yes, ‘Christian.’ Now, I’m not one of those raving zealots who decry this move as a vile secularist plot to altogether erase Christ from history. To a considerable degree, though, I think it’s more evidence of our culture’s efforts to be “sensitive” to religious pluralism. And as such, I do regard it as a distressing moving away from the centrality and significance of Jesus Christ and his Lordship in human affairs.
And therein is the tragedy. To dilute and homogenize Christ into just another good, loving man, or eminently wise teacher, is to completely miss his meaning, his mission, his reality, his divinity. It is to indulge in what C.S. Lewis called “patronizing nonsense,” and it is to our detriment. And so it is that I remain ever more saddened and perplexed by the social landscape we have fashioned around this time of year, by the urgency and energy we assign to such things as tempting and cajoling folks to shop on Thanksgiving Day, at 4 a.m. on “black” Friday, on “Small Business Saturday,” on “Cyber Monday.” As if it is our joyous duty as Americans to participate. Lemmings diving into the commerce abyss. How about replacing Christmas shopping days with Christmas stopping days? Stopping to remember, savor, come back to the source of who we are, what we have, where we should be going and what we should be doing every day. Stop for a moment – many moments – and think of the possibilities of a Christ-driven economy, nation, indeed world, the possibilities not for “the holidays,” but for a transformed CHRISTmas landscape.
As this year of 2010 A.D. draws to a close, stop and consider where your allegiances are. Whom do they serve? Whom do YOU serve? What would surrendering to the Lord of the Universe look like?
Photo: “Surrendered,” oil, 2003, by yours truly