July 2013

Pax Domini and a High-Five

A pang of desolation runs through me during that spasm of glad-handing at Mass called the Kiss of Peace. The High-Five of Peace, as often as not. All the Rotarian hand-shaking, wigwagging, and waving toward every possible compass point makes me lonely. Congregants two generations removed from Woodstock have taken to raising that old two-fingered, tie-dyed peace sign. The sight of it dispirits me. (Who was it who said that the Sixties, like the poor, will be with us always?) What the hubbub brings to mind is not the pax tecum , an eschatological promise to a community linked by the same faith and the same love. Continue Reading
Special Pleading/Christian Artists

Identity politics, a cancer on the body politic, is corrosive in the arts as well. All the more disconcerting, then, to find Christian artists recycling a self-indulgent pose similar to that used earlier by gay, black and women artists. Last week’s On the Square column about Fuller Seminary’s Art Immersion project laments “the difficulty of being a theist in the art world.” No such difficulty exists; it is a manufactured complaint. Helen Zajkowski. Tower of Babel (2002). Collaged pop-up booklet intended to “awaken the viewer to new dimensions to the New and Old Testaments.” However appealing to a religious audience, the rhetoric of marginalization is, at best, an overstatement; at worst, dishonest. Continue Reading
Ad Gustum

Speaking of angels, there is this rendering of St. Michael from the gifted Daniel Mitsui : Daniel Mitsui. St. Michael as a Samurai. Mitsui promises a new St. Michael, again as a samurai, later in the year. Below is St. Raphael, carrying his attributes, a staff—bamboo, this time—and a fish. Most likely a carp. (In Japanese culture the carp is a symbol of resolve, of strength in adversity. Perseverance is a desired quality in boys; hence, the carp is a popular design on boys’ kimonos.) Daniel Matsui. Continue Reading
Angel Guardians, a Survey

Last week’s joint dedication of Vatican City by Popes Francis and Benedict to Michael the Archangel, our defender in endless battle, brought angels to mind. While they are an integral part of our cultural history—some would say mythology—they have little purchase on contemporary Christian life, theology or spirituality. Once liturgical prayer to St. Michael was made voluntary, it slipped altogether out of the prayers after Mass. The same has happened to that sweet staple of children’s culture:  
Angel of God My guardian dear To Whom God’s love Commits me here Ever this day Be at my side To light and guard To rule and guide.
Continue Reading
A Blog of One's Own

It is an odd thing, this culture of blogging. I am still not fully at home with it. The very word blog makes me wince. It is an ungainly term, ugly to look at on the page and even uglier to hear spoken. Gelatinous. The word comes dangerously close to blob . If I had to pick a visual correlative for the term, it could only be this: Blobfish, an endangered bottom-feeder off the coast of Australia. From an aesthetic standpoint, extinction might be welcome. Continue Reading