Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breakdance Messiah?

A new 30' mural in Bristol, England was recently unveiled.  The piece was painted by London street artist Cosmo Sarsen after winning a competition. 

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Clifton praised the mural of the Breakdancing Jesus as artwork that will get people talking about religion and would appeal to youths and the multi-ethnic populous. 

Clifton Youth Ministry coordinator David Wheat observed: “It helps to bring Christ out of our multi-ethnic Church and into the lives of religious and non-religious people, as Pope Francis urges us to do.”

Artwork need not be photo realism and the imagery can be evocative to deeper meaning.  In the early Catholic Church, the Greek tradition was to depict Jesus as being a youthful shepherd, which touched upon his Davidic lineage as well as being the Good Shepherd.  Salvador Dali painted some challenging surreal spiritual pieces, like the Ascension of Christ (1950), in which the Messiah is heaven bound in a prone position with his soiled feet prominent to the viewer.  Other modern depictions of Biblical themes are more troubling than a Breakdancing Jesus, like Henning vonGlerken's  rendering of the Last Supper that is displayed in the Cathedral Museum in Würburg, Germany.

It would be interesting to learn what message Cosmo Sarsen intended to give in his Breakdance Jesus mural.  Was it simply a contemporary outreach to youths with an anachronistic image of the Son of God dancing or was there something more?  

While people taking about religion in this age of aggressive atheism should be welcomed, I shudder to think that the message from "What Would Jesus Do?" and hip-hop salvific history is "So You Think You Can Dance?".

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