There was an article by Reuters posted Monday April 7th about an art exhibit in Austria that you may not know about. You can find it here. This art exhibit is at Vienna’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Cathedral Museum. The exhibit contains such horrific pieces as a “Crucifixion picture showing a soldier simultaneously beating Jesus and holding his genitals” and a remake of the last supper called 'Leonardo's Last Supper, restored by Pier Paolo Pasolini' which showed the Apostles sprawling on the table and masturbating each other. This painting is by Alfred Hrdlicka, a communist and atheist. This, understandably, has Christians in Austria, Germany, and the United States very upset and is making it’s way around the blogosphere. The church is getting angry responses via e-mail to protest the exhibition.
My thoughts on this are two-fold. First is Yuck. I have to believe that not only does the “artist” have clear issues with religion (which is probably why he is an atheist) but I also find the homoerotic nature interesting. I am never clear why it is that when artists want to attack Christianity, they have to do it with sex. I would think a little counseling would go a long way for Mr. Hrdlicka. Also, why do atheists have such an overwhelming need to attack religion. I find it interesting that someone who so strongly guards their right to practice their non-belief is so completely consumed with other people trying enjoy the same right of practicing a belief in religion. I have always believed that they may not be completely comfortable with their decision. One would think that if they were comfortable with atheism, they would find the notion that other people believe as irrelevant.
Furthermore, what is this exhibit doing in a church in the first place? In my mind this is the same as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People having an art exhibit depicting lynchings or a synagogue showing art work glorifying Nazism. It is not the church’s place to be controversial. Finally you have to wonder what they are doing showing artwork by a atheist. If we are to follow the church’s teachings, we should practice tolerance for a man like Mr. Hrdlicka. There is a wide gap between tolerance and promotion though.
Secondly, we do have to draw a comparison between the way Christians have reacted to this and how Muslims reacted to a Danish cartoonist depicting the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist (where would he get that idea?). Bernhard Boehler, director of the museum, compared the protestations to the outcry against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. In 2005 the newspaper printed 50 cartoons of the prophet Muhammed, one with his turban as a bomb. This caused outrage across the Muslim world because any depiction of Muhammed is forbidden. So let’s compare. In the Christian protest we had people upset, some wrote critical blogs, some sent e-mails. In the Muslim protest more than a 100 people died, the Danish Embasies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran were set afire, the Danish, Norwegian, and German flags were desecrated in Gaza, and Muslim leaders issued death threats against the cartoonist. All further proof that the Muslim religion is peaceful. I find Mr. Boehler’s comparison to be absolutely offensive. I think it is likely he is trying to confer some of the blame onto the critics to get himself out of hot water because I suspect the parishioners have a lot of questions about this exhibit.