Pornography and Bumper Stickers

For the past few weeks, I have been attending a discussion group concerned with the arts and finding and engaging your creative calling. I have really enjoyed the dialogue and the conversation partners, and I am humbled when I realize that God is speaking to each one of us, and out of that people are responding in very imaginative and creative ways. Last night we had an interesting conversation on censorship, provocative art forms, and the responsibility of the artist. Eventually we touched on subject of pornography and the offensiveness of art.

I have an aside to this conversation so bear with me: Some might see this as conservative, others might see it as hypocritical, but I am on the side of censorship when it comes to pornography. I honestly think it is horrible and I have known many people, myself included, who have bought into the lies of what it has promised and it has devestated individuals, families, and communities. I have seen it hurt many people, again I include myself. It drastically alters and manipulates reality, and it degrades everyone involved, eventually making us less human in the process. I will go on record and say that I do make a distinction with art and I am comfortable with nude paintings, now you might find that an oxymoron, however I think that there can be an honest apprecation in that and I don’t believe that humans are degraded in the process.

Now that I have ranted on pornography, I want to return to the conversation that was held last night. Someone brought up the Christian artist Thomas Kinkade, also know as the “Painter of Light”, and basically said that there is a responsibility for us, especially Christian artists, to be true to the divine and human experience. Many people enjoy Kinkade, I don’t. In fact, I despise just about all of his paintings, and yet I also want to say that I am trying not to argue against anyone who does in fact enjoy his artwork. I think that the reason I don’t enjoy his art is because a part of me doesn’t see it as honest. It is fabricated in my opinion, and I would rather look at something that imparts some sense of what I have experienced in life. Steve said that if he were ever to hang a Kinkade painting in his house, that he would feel responsible to have other art work that “balanced” that painting out to be more true to himself and to others. I think that is very wise, and I believe it too. I would say that art has the responsibility to be honest, to give insight into the human condition, the human experience, and that includes all the hope and pain of it all. I still don’t like Kinkade, but I can see maybe why others do a little bit better. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters, and Starry Night is probably one of my favorite pieces. Yet I also have to say that Van Gogh does not incapsulate it all, and I can appreciate Picasso’s horrific Guernica, knowing that both artists in a sense balance each other out.

So how does this all relate to pornography and bumper stickers you ask?

I think that when we give messages to each other, whether that be in art, media, conversation, or public discourse, we all have the responsibility to be as honest as possible and to uphold the truth that we are all human and there is a certain dignity that we all carry because of that, even when we do inhumane things. From the Christian perspective, this dignity is due because we are all images of God.  Pornography, art, and bumper stickers all carry messages; and they all have the potential to be offensive. We can argue all day long on what is offensive, and I think that there are times when you can be offensive and also be true and respect the dignity of others persons in the process, we can debate that another time. Last night, I brought up that I am equally offended at bumper stickers as much as I am pornography. A couple of people balked at what I had said, but my reasoning goes as such: pornography and bumper stickers do the same thing, they convey a message and interrupt lives and leave no room for interaction and feedback. There are no dialogue partners in either message, what you see is what you get and there is nothing to contribute. What pornography lacks in describing true intimacy and friendship and love, bumper stickers lack in humility and shared truth. There is a certain arrogance on both parts, and both exclude possibilities of people giving and receiving. Ultimately, they are void of a full approach to being honest.

 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Pornography and Bumper Stickers

  1. MF

    I really liked this blog. I enjoy you’re writing dan. I wondered for awhile how you were linking them, but a 1 way communication is exactly right. These things affect you and do not involve a conversation. Some are in your face and some are more subtle, but they all affect us. Thanks for the afternoon reading.

  2. you know, your really asking for your truck to be stickered. ones like “meat is gross,” “i don’t brake for sooners,” and “sexy princess.” i wonder how late starship is open…do you work tonight?…

  3. Thomas Kinkade is worse than pornography.

  4. Jared

    Rowan Williams has some pretty interesting thoughts on pornography in The Truce of God. If you’d like to read it Scott has my copy and I gave one to Rob too, get with one of them.

    Bumper stickers are probably the best representation of how people like to think. They oversimplify everything that they try to represent. Their either logos or snappy little statements that try to draw the wolrd together. Both of those are far from the substance that we need in our life. They attmept to take the place of symbols by being total abstract. That’s not what humanity needs and it sure as hell isn’t what the church should give. We have symbols (baptism and eucharist) that connect us to YHWH’s reality. That is what we have to offer the world.

    And I agree with you on Thomas Kinkade. His work is the equivalent of those novels you see in Christian bookstores that always have a woman staring off into the distance. I’m sure he makes pretty place mats, but there’s no real life in his work.

    I think Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Bluebeard gives a pretty good account of what art should be.

  5. I definitely struggle with how to respond to “pornography”, in general. Especially with my own ideals regarding the arts. I am left with seemingly unanswerable questions. Obviously, there are some unquestionable negatives surrounding it. But, I am wading through difficult waters these days. Simplistic blanket statements about something being “bad” isn’t going to solve anything, isn’t going to build relationships with “outsiders”, isn’t going to truly engage the arts.

    My own experience shows me that a lot of things the church has turned its back on have been partially in an attempt to make things “family friendly” — i.e., the least common denominator. So, we won’t listen to this music or talk to this person or do this or that, because “someone might get offended.” That is terribly inconsistent thinking.

    Also, there’s the “addiction” factor. So, the reasoning goes, we shouldn’t drink alcohol because this person is an addict, and they might “stumble” back into their addiction. We can’t be around something offensive (movies, tv, art, etc.) because someone is addicted to porn. The Amish are the most consistent with this, and the rest of us are morons.

    As I’m struggling through these issues, I’m preparing to teach through the last few verses of Colossians chapter 2.

    Calvin was right, the human heart is an idol factory. We can’t “fix” that by distinguishing (or even diminishing) our “exposure” to things that are “bad.”

  6. haha distinguishing=extinguishing

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