Monday, May 10, 2010

Piss Christ and Our Own Sin

Back in 1989, American photographer Andres Serrano stirred up a firestorm of controversy when he used $15,000 of taxpayer funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to create "Piss Christ". The photograph depicted a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine. I do not know what the artist's intent was with the piece (I hate to imagine) but I do remember what my reaction was the first time I heard of it as a boy growing up in a Christian home. I was angry, shocked and a little scared at what our society was coming to.

And I am now curious what your reaction was (or is) upon hearing of this piece of "art". Perhaps you are angry at the seeming intended insult tossed at Christ and/or his followers. Maybe you are upset that public funds are being used to produce art such as this in our postmodern climate. Maybe you even resent a government and public that seems to support freedom of speech when it's anti-Christian but squash it when it's pro-Christian.

But I want to turn the finger back at you and at me. 1st Corinthians 6:15-20 outlines for us the fact that, as believers, our bodies are joined with Christ. It goes so far as to say that our bodies are members of Christ himself, and when we willfully and deliberately sin, we are doing something much worse than what Andres Sorrano did. We are not joining a plastic image of Christ with physical bodily refuse. We are joining Christ and His temple (our bodies) with a spiritual refuse.

We can too easily become comfortable with our pet sins, our vices that we think no one knows of. I hope your heart, as mine does, rises up and cries "NO! This should not be!". Oh, that we could hate our sin that much, that we could comprehend the utter vileness of it. Pray that we would be given eyes to see the despicable sin that we tolerate as Christians living under the grace and mercy of a loving God—and that we would be given the Spirit-fueled will to kill it. There should be nothing of the old man that we tolerate, nothing that we hang on to, nothing that we hold back. We must be in a constant process of mortification; death to our old self so the new creation may thrive.


Unknown said...

You should have looked up the artist's intent before you posted this. Andres Serrano believes himself to be a Catholic Christian, if estranged from the Roman Catholic Church. He also photographed crucifixes submerged in blood and human breast milk. The intent was to re-link these sterile, plastic crucifixes with things of actual human flesh. It is a statement for the Incarnation.
"The best place for Piss Christ is in a church. In fact, I recently had a show in Marseilles in an actual church that also functions as an exhibition space, and the work looked great there. I think if the Vatican is smart, someday they'll collect my work."

Andrew Faris said...

Fair enough Jonathan- Jared probably should've. But since the intent of the post wasn't really to comment on this piece specifically (if it was, he no doubt would've looked it up), but to turn our attention to our own sin instead of our outrage at sacramental sin, his point still stands. Again, not to say you're wrong.

I found it really helpful, Jared- thanks.

Unknown said...

Of course, of course. I didn't think the post, in general, was misguided at all.

in said...

Well hasn't all our sin been dealt with by Christ, so we can finally enjoy the party, rejoice and again I say rejoice.

Anonymous said...

An over emphasis on what the Lord went to all lengths to eradicate (our sin) is truly a misplaced emphasis. Read Hebrews 9-10 about the elimination of a "sin consciousness" because the blood of Christ really did work. He really did it!

Jared Totten said...

Actually, I intentionally avoided researching the artist's intended message in the piece because I suspected there might be a redeeming meaning behind it (perhaps even the very point I was making). I know, all you artists want to strangle me at this point. The importance of the piece (for my purposes) was actually the emotion that it elicited in myself and many other Christians at the time the piece went public, and the emotion that it might elicit in our readers even today.

I'm happy to defend the artist's integrity as I find his motives are honorable, but it would have detracted from my point which was that we have an instant visceral reaction to the apparent cheapening and defiling of these plastic images of our faith, but little if any reaction to the defiling of the very body of Christ in our lives.

And certainly we should rejoice in the final work of Jesus Christ. Yet in the same vein, we are instructed to die to self, live for Christ, pick up our cross daily and live for Him. Certainly there is an element of sin consciousness (followed by mortification) in the Christian walk.