Smithsonian should have kept "ant-covered Jesus"


It's not surprising that some Christians find the image offensive. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with pushing some boundaries to provoke thought and discussion. Everyone has a right to their feelings, however, and people can be offended and even protest. This is America, after all.

For the same reasons, the exhibition should have stayed in its original form, Jesus, ants and all. It's art. It's intentionally provocative. You don't have to like it. But this is America, where we don't censor art.

Boehner forgets that we are not, in fact, a Christian nation. We are a secular nation. Many people saw the exhibit, which has been going strong since the end of October, and not a peep was heard in protest, at least publicly. It wasn't until this became a right-wing hot-button issue that people noticed and got darn tootin' mad. Republicans are hijacking the real issue to once again attack the Big Bad Government's Out-of-Control Spending Spree Oh By the Way Obama is a Terrorist Agenda.

In this country, people are allowed to be critical of religion. They are even allowed to be disrespectful of religion. In the case of this video, the artist was trying to make his audience see a larger point about religion and so-called religious people in the historical moment.

The whole debacle calls to mind the reaction to a 1999 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum that included Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in urine. While Mayor Giuliani demanded its removal and the closing of the Brooklyn Museum (because obviously its better to deprive an entire outer borough, not to mention the world, of access to a top-notch cultural institution), others saw it as beautiful, rather than offensive.

I heard this (completely anecdotal and unverifiable story that we'll have to take as a parable if nothing else) story from a professor: a Catholic priest stood up during a discussion of the work and said he didn't see what all the fuss was about. He argued that it demonstrated how the love and power of Jesus Christ is so great it can overcome even the most base and lowly aspects of humanity.

Maybe that story is an urban legend, but the point still rings true. Art is meant to be interpreted, and you never know how it might affect people. The Smithsonian gave in to cowardice and political pressure instead of upholding the American values of freedom of expression. I'll say a prayer for them.

Oh, and here's the video that thousands of people who would not otherwise have cared will now watch thanks to this controversy: