Art

Two Misleading Images: Vietnam, 1968 & Minneapolis, 2020

Photographs mislead. Just as with Eddie Adams’s famous 1968 photo from the Vietnam War, the images of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd only tell us part of the story. Reading reports on the current trial of former officer Chauvin makes it almost impossible to believe that the man will receive a fair trial. Everyone—bystanders, the jury pool, racial malcontents—has seen the now-infamous video clip. The public mind is made up; all have judged Floyd an innocent and Chauvin a murderer. The defendant has been convicted, a priori, by an image. Continue Reading
The Annunciation: Tidings From A Painter & A Theologian

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. The Gospel story of an encounter between an angel and a peasant girl in ancient Judea has provided us with a treasury of luminous depictions. Much as I love the inventory of them as works of art, only one draws me to wonder and to prayer. The essential commitments of faith do not begin in intellectual assent. That comes later. Intellect ratifies what the heart has already glimpsed. And the eye grasps certain things in an instant; the mind takes longer to grant approval to reasoned argument. Continue Reading
The Irish: Slaves By Another Name

When the U.S. government starts paying reparations to the descendants of slaves, let them begin with the Irish. White Cargo, co-authored by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, two journalists living in London, was published in 2007. Drawing on letters, diaries, and court and government archives, the book earns its subtitle: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America.   The brutalities associated with black slavery in this country were inflicted previously on whites. It does not detract at all from the enormity of black suffering to note that poor whites suffered agonies in common with blacks. Continue Reading
Do The Arts Make Us Better?

Do the Arts make us better? Oxford’s John Carey asked that question in What Good Are The Arts? (2005).  A provocative little book, it rankled readers on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared. It sank its fangs into a reigning cultural assumption that art’s mission is to improve people.
The belief that art can make people better dates back to classical times. Aristotle taught that music was character-forming and should be introduced into the education of the young. In listening to music, he maintained, “our souls undergo a change.”
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Courting Pop Culture: The Cardinal & The Rocker

Vatican surrender to compartmentalized culture—divided by age and social brackets—did not begin with Pope Francis. John Paul II initiated that trajectory.  (Try to imagine Pope Pius XII being made an honorary Harlem Globetrotter as was John Paul. Or the Vatican releasing a cartoon version of Pius’ life on DVD.) Under Jorge Bergoglio’s pontificate, the Vatican goes an extra mile in blurring the distinction between evangelizing popular culture and flattering it. Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has a knack for promoting the Church’s secular replacement. Continue Reading