Nudes:

 

My former and dear professor, Dr. Horner,
posted a painting on his Facebook homepage,
with this fascinating quote about reflection in art:

 

“I do not know why painted things have so much grace in the mirror. It is marvellous how every weakness in a painting is so manifestly deformed in a mirror…” Leon Battista Alberti, 1435, ‘Della Pittura’ (‘On Painting’)

 

"Woman Standing in Front of Mirror" - Christoffer Wilhem Eckerserg

 

And oh,
the sturm und drang that ensued over the nudity,
and how “I don’t want to see this on my Facebook feed!”
and “She’s not my wife! Therefore I cannot look upon her nakedness!”

It was all terribly overwrought,
and one person started making …nasty… cracks about the conservative protestors,
and the protestors got all self-righteous in response…
Just kinda…gross, all told.

 

And here is what I don’t understand about some of my fellow Christians:

If something bothers you,
or moves you towards temptation,
or leads your mind and body towards sin,
avoid it.
Don’t do it.
If it crops up on a friend’s blog, facebook page, or newsfeed,
remove yourself from the situation.

If you are in a close relationship with said friend,
talk to them about it.
Maybe they can censor their posts so that you will not see them
(I already do this for several of my more conservative friends).

But if you are in the position of being a “weaker brethren”,
understand that the onus is on YOU to take charge of your own weaknesses.
You cannot expect everyone around you–if they are not close to you–to know that drinking or nudity in art or yoga or strong language or or dancing or certain movies or amillenialism causes you to stumble.

If you need to,
remove yourself from the situation.

Be nice about it,
and you will find that most folks are far more willing to be sensitive to your needs.

 

On the converse side,
it is difficult to be understanding of a friend who isn’t
comfortable with something.
I am, frankly, terrible at this.

Partially,
it’s a push-back against the prudish behavior that I grew up with.
Partially,
it’s a push-back against my own uncomfortableness with my body.
Often,
I am just unaware that someone might be uncomfortable
with what I’m saying or doing
(Really! I’m usually oblivious! And I’m trying to be better with this, I promise).
It is my responsibility to pay attention to the people I love
and to respond to their needs,
regardless of my personal opinion or belief.

And?

That goes both ways.

As Christians,
we are called to have compassion on each other.
We are called to submit to each other in love.

Teetotalers need to play nice with Wine-drinkers.
Wine-drinkers need to play nice with Teetotalers.

Both ways.
Ambivalence.
Compassion.

 

But getting back to that particular painting…
I believe there is value in celebrating the human form–
even in this fallen, broken state.
I love beautiful nudity in art,
and I believe it is wonderful
(and this painting is absolutely breathtaking.
Look at the light, the shadow, how natural her gesture is,
how the painter let us see a tiny, sunlit moment…it is glorious).

I also believe that it can be abused–
that art can be titillating instead of sublime.
And that those lines are very, very fuzzy.

The intention of the artist matters–
the approach of the viewer matters.

But I do not believe that it is acceptable for a Christian
to blindly suppose that their own particular struggles
should be the burden of all Christians,
nor is it okay to make a sin where there is simply…
struggle.

 

Life is hard enough.
Vive l’Grace of Christ,
and also:

Don’t fight with strangers.
It’s bad form.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shawna G
    Nov 25, 2011 @ 00:01:44

    amen to that…you wouldn’t believe the struggle it is to be able to worship through dance…acutally, maybe you would. it’s really frustrating.

    and that painting is incredible.

    Reply

  2. cheekypinky
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 14:31:57

    I do understand.

    Dance and theatre are tough in a worship setting because they are inherently performance art–I, personally, cannot watch a praise dance in church and worship at the same time–but that’s on me, not the dancers.

    There should be room in Christianity to use all forms of Art to praise God. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Abigail
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 19:11:39

    Yes! I wanted to read interesting discussion on mirrors and art and reality and I got an anger fest instead. The painting is beautiful.

    Reply

  4. charlotte
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 13:27:59

    This was the picture that got everyone all worked up? Really?? I’m a pretty conservative Christian (albeit a really difficult to offend one) and I find it beautiful. (Of course my first thought was – look how round she is! and how adored she is, at least by whomever painted her! And how comfortable she is in her own body!) Really your last two lines said it all. I concur:)

    Reply

  5. cheekypinky
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 14:52:47

    @Charlotte: Right??? That’s what surprised me–if it had been frontal nudity, I would understand it a *little* better, but what a tempest in a teakettle over a beautiful painting.

    I fear for the daughters of the men who were freaking out over it.

    (I also liked that from the back, I look very much like this painting. It made me feel pretty.)

    Reply

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