Probably like you, I get Facebook posts from Christian friends denouncing on Christian grounds the values and policies promoted by our president elect about all the most controversial issues of our time: the environment, taxes, jobs and the economy, interpretations of the 1st and 2nd amendments of the constitution, health care quality and accessibility, welfare, women’s reproductive rights, voting rights, workers rights, and many more. And I get posts from other Christian friends defending and promoting on Christian grounds the very same values and policies promoted by our president elect and reflected in his cabinet picks.
My son, Moonway in the book Oppression for the Heaven of It, was preoccupied in his art with paradoxes and tensions inherent in his Christian faith: responsibility for evil and suffering; the relationship between Christ and Satan; angels and demons; Adam, Eve, and the serpent. A youthful convert, he painted the suffering Christ with blood pouring from his heart. He painted Christ wearing the crown of thorns, a halo beaming out of the back of his head. He painted repeated images of Christ with one side of his face in light, the other in shadow and often broken. He painted a disembodied head of Christ with blank white disks where eyes should have been, head bent downward toward 3 diminutive crosses on a diminutive hill. He drew impressionist Christs, cubist Christs, charcoal Christs, ghostly Christs. He drew Christ surrounded by demons in cages. He drew many demons, many of them labeled “Dragons of Madness.” He drew Adam and a snake-like Eve dancing with the serpent; this one became a cover on a forthcoming chapbook of poems.
He painted lovely serpent couples rising out of water, posed as if dancing in a courtship ritual:
He said William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven & Hell was his favorite art work and, “There can be no peace on earth until Christ and Satan reconcile.” Once in a letter, he wrote me, “Take the best they gave you in love and support, and leave the rest to the devil to carry away into hell or wherever he does the dirty work of God who I often call the Great Flipped Blip.”
Moonway was never really comfortable in his Christianity. He loved the passion and fellowship he found in his early years in the church, but he yearned for resolution and reconciliation of the contradictions. He also yearned for the certainty he thought he saw in other Christians. Not finding it, he sought his own theology that grew increasingly strange to other parishioners, and he eventually drifted away from the church and turned increasingly to art, drawing and painting his discomfort in symbolic images by which his schizophrenic mind tried to make sense of a real world striven with the same kinds of paradoxes, contradictions, and conflicts of his faith.
I remember presidents back to the time of Franklin Roosevelt. I remember partisan conflicts of the MCarthy era during Eisenhower’s time. I remember the Kennedy and Johnson sixties with revolutionary activity for social justice. I remember Nixon’s Watergate. I remember all the international conflicts of those times and our own. Watching the PBS series From Jesus to Christ, I remember that Christianity itself proceeded throughout its history riddled by and feeding into the same kind of conflict and division we see in our political life today.
For how to live with others, I take Jesus to be an important moral guide in the world and in my life but I am not a believer in Christianity. Moonway often said to me about his hallucinations, Mom, I wish you would believe this is real. I think he was a Christian believer like he believed in the reality of everything he saw in his mind and art. But he never asked me to believe in his faith. We talked often and peacefully about how to practice what Christ taught: Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Love your neighbor, and your enemy.
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