It could be said that without the conflict and the sad beauty of a tortured death, the Bible and Christ Himself would never have sold half so well. His story would be trite and boring – it would be normal. If the media is any indication, nobody follows what is normal. And so, even then, God must be creative and His Book absurd. God must incorporate conflict in His works, much like any other celebrated author. Conflict, it seems, is the root of success, sales, and a following. This piece analyzes the crucifixion of a living Christ from two points – a quote by Veronica Roth that suggests conflict as the root of what is interesting and from the perspective of art – specifically a piece of art named Immersion, created in 1987. The work of art is a photograph of a plastic crucifix immersed in a tank of the artist’s urine and is a masterpiece of the artist Andres Serrano, who still lives despite the sacrilege. The essay intends to mimic the sarcasm of both the art and the quote.
Christ blinks, awake on his shaft from the smell of urine seeping up his dead nostrils. He struggles for breath as the stench attaches itself to his very skin, preserving Him well. The plastic of His body has become, in reaction to the blasphemy, a living being once more.
The smell seeps into every pore, sucked into His belly and rotting together with His last meal. The act of a heretic may be easily confused with the act of a hero. The blasphemous with the brave. By God’s own grace, freedom of expression ought to be forgiven and the urine on Your skin is merely words others are not brave enough to utter; thus thinks the artist to the divine. If we cannot talk, where is the beauty? If we cannot naysay, how are we free? Contradiction, whatever it is, is the very root of freedom. (These are not the artist’s own words, but rather an interpretation of what he might think based on his art.)
The Bible shackles us to its words. The paper is defiled, the ink stained with the blood of our souls. We are told what to believe and think and say. I read from the pages and I am consoled. The words know more than they tell: like the self-help columns in magazines or the books that tell us how to live, the Bible is its very own Agony Aunt. It is amazing that the Good Book has stayed current and remains among the best sellers the world over. Advancement and technology, the changing of space through the medium of time cannot erase the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice. We are forever in His debt. A debt such as this cannot be forgotten. We must never be forgiven, even though those that did it are long dead. But denying us forgiveness keeps us coming, whether it is to the Church or the bookstore.
The plastic of the toy of Christ, by this blasphemous artist’s signature, has become something that is in no way trite. He is disfigured to a greater degree by the artist than He had been by His God, and, even in this state of deference that has had Him crucified we see potential for more. Is the artist wrong to use such sadness to make a point? His torture and death had been a sign of fear and, if you wish to see it, respect. By the same token, is this desecration of Christ a sign of fear and respect? Is this artist guilty like his predecessors who had seen it necessary to kill the man in His prime? Has he no respect? Or has he too much respect? Is he defacing Christ or reproducing the fate that Christ was handed?
Is it a hint to God, that has driven the artist to defile the image of the His son – a hint that the condemnation of Christ was a sin in itself? Is it profanity to say that God is as guilty of Christ’s death as those who subjugated Him to the cross and left Him for dead? Would any mortal man doing this not go straight to jail? The poor disembodied corpse of Christ has been a source of empathy to generations of believers. Here He has become entrapped behind the glass, a figure in plastic – and, yet He feels. He must watch as His embodied essence is soaked in the urine of another man. Just as He feels the kisses of believers pressing their lips unto His crucified body during Mass, so to does He feel the humiliation here as this souvenir in cheap plastic is defiled to make a point. This is a point about freedom and, in many ways, a point about many of the things which Christ stood for.
The plastic body of Christ decays as the urine makes contact with skin. He is submerged in the golden liquid. He cannot breathe or escape. This is no life. This is the mortal’s version of Hell, with urine for fire and the artists camera for a Devil’s trident. Is there no shame that art will not go to? Has art no boundaries? Or, should we say, has religion no boundaries? Whose fault is it that Christ was hung from a cross, nailed and whipped? Who is to blame? And whose fault is it that He continues to be desecrated? Where are the lines and can they all be crossed in the name of art and free expression? Is the conflict necessary or is it only interesting? Where does blasphemy begin and where does blasphemy end?