A likely little read news item through most U.S. news channels was the death of M.F. Husain, a prominent Indian artist. He started off painting billboards for movies produced in India. Husain became an acclaimed Indian modernist in the 1940s. He was a dashing, highly eccentric figure who dressed in impeccably tailored suits, he went barefoot and brandished an extra-long paintbrush as a slim cane. He never maintained a studio but he spread his canvases out on the floor of whatever hotel room he happened to be staying in and paying for damages when he checked out. He created four museums to showcase his work and had a collection of classic sports cars. Enormously prolific, a gifted self-promoter and hard bargainer, he claimed to have produced some 60,000 paintings, amassed a fortune but maintained a bank balance of zero.
All this said, why would this come out of the UK news instead of Indian news sources? The answer is that Husain lived in the UK. He had had to flee India. Why? Because in the 1970s he painted some paintings with Hindu deities nude and, possibly interpreted, in sexually suggestive poses. He said he viewed nudity, and sexuality, as purity rather than as something dirty. But this earned him the bitter hatred of fundamentalist Hindus who saw the paintings as immoral and, in the early 1990s, some began sending death threats to him. Husain, for his own safety, moved to the UK.
What else has been in the news? How about Anthony Weiner? You might think that the non-stop news coverage revolves around politics, but I doubt it. If Weiner had been found guilty of embezzlement or of tax evasion, I doubt he would be featured daily on both serious news feeds and also, to the utter delight of the comedians, on late night talk shows. The interest in Weiner (in a negative way to be sure) revolves around his sex life and his willingness to bald face lie to the world about it.
And how has our denomination been in the news of late? Does it have to do with our response to the Joplin tornadoes? Or our response in Tuscaloosa? Perhaps it has been our decision not to adopt a new confession in our Book of Confessions? Or maybe some news of growing churches in certain areas of our country? No. None of that is in the news. What is totally “newsworthy” is our decision to possibly allow homosexuals to hold ordained office in some of our churches (and the squabble within the church that revolves around it).
What all of this tells us is that, no matter the culture, or even the faith, that matters revolving around human procreation continues to generate great interest in human beings and evoke strong beliefs. This is why conservatives will bemoan the new language in the PC(USA) constitution about being “guiding by God’s Word” versus being “ruled by God’s Word.” But, what that actually means to many conservatives is to be “ruled by God’s Word on all matters concerning procreation” not to be “ruled by God’s Word on all matters on how we should treat the poor.” Of course, liberals equally are guilty of placing matters of procreation to the top of the agenda over all matters (just to be accepting of all decisions regarding procreation). Liberals can spend great time and emphasis on being open to the gay community and being pro-choice, wanting to help those who they see as being unfairly targeted, while almost completely ignoring other groups whose suffering equals or exceeds those in the gay community. When is the last time you heard any liberal group bemoan Christians being martyred in Africa and Asia (sometimes in most gruesome ways)?
Nothing is going to change any of this. By our very natures, no matter where we are born, no matter what faith we learn, we very likely take matters of procreation seriously (even when we seriously disagree with one another). But what I think is important is for us to be honest with ourselves about where this comes from. Conservatives want to say, “from God who prohibits homosexual relations and out of wedlock sex.” Liberals want to say, “from God – who encourages us to be graceful and not to judge others.” But in truth, none of us approach God as a blank slates. And sometimes what God may just be doing is challenging us to go beyond our “gut reaction” to something and see more of the world (and the people) around us.
God’s Word should not just be what guides us but also what shapes our lives. Calvin said Scripture is the lens through which we see the world (hinting that we might not be seeing very accurately without it).
We do, as a church, need to seek a coherent message on matters of procreation. It is obviously important. But, I also contend, there is much much more out there that should be drawing our attention.
Until next time,