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Can you find Satan?
October 6, 2009 5:29 PM   Subscribe

"This may truly be the most important new painting of the twenty first century." The McNaughton Fine Art Company presents "One Nation Under God" [cache], an... interesting take on American history in a nifty zoom interface. Artist John McNaughton, who calls himself "the only living artist in the world today" to practice the Barbizon School of French Impressionism, has an extensive body of less opinionated work for you to admire. Interview. Character list.
posted by Rhaomi (305 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think Jefferson, being a Deist, should have a more surprised expression.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:39 PM on October 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


You have seen the revised version, right?
posted by maudlin at 5:40 PM on October 6, 2009 [91 favorites]


Initially I was delighted at the sight of what I thought was the single most sarcastic work of art ever created, but then I thought: oh.

I have bought and assembled 800-piece puzzles from the Wal-Mart with more visual interest and depth than his landscape work.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:41 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


After careful consideration, I regret to inform Thomas Kinkade that, despite M. Naughton's vigorous efforts, M. Kinkade is still the worst goddamn painter in America.
posted by xthlc at 5:42 PM on October 6, 2009 [19 favorites]


I know there's a lot of discussion to be had here, so please don't judge me too harshly for choosing to ask this question in particular:

What's the deal with Lincoln doing his Al Jolson impression?
posted by Graygorey at 5:42 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know this guy from a hole in the wall. I looked at his art, read his bio, looked at the commentary he's making about American Society.

I feel very comfortable declaring that this guy is a world-class douche.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:43 PM on October 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


I believe this will be exhibit A in the inevitable Normal People vs Insane Religious Buffoons landmark trial of 2016.
posted by Aquaman at 5:43 PM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have bought and assembled 800-piece puzzles from the Wal-Mart with more visual interest and depth than his landscape work.

You culture vulture you:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:44 PM on October 6, 2009


John McNaughton is clearly some sort of hybrid cross between Jack T. Chick and Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light.

Also, I love that Satan (lurking oh-so-symbolically over the shoulder of the Hollywood Director) is pretty much a dead ringer for Emperor Palpatine.
posted by dersins at 5:44 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Christ, I have watched too much daytime TV in my life. Barbizon means only one thing to me.
posted by barnacles at 5:44 PM on October 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but do the eyes appear to follow you around the room?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:45 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You have seen the revised version, right?

God bless the Internet.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2009


That revised version is great. My favorite: Roger Sherman. But make sure you look at some of the more prominent Founding Fathers first, as well as Frederick Douglas.
posted by Flunkie at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2009


Civil War Soldier

Why does he have his hands over his face? This is the only war in American history where American fought against American and brother fought against brother. Hopefully it will never happen again.


For some reason, I don't think Mr. Painterman really believes that last sentence.
posted by barnacles at 5:48 PM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


You have seen the revised version, right?

Heh, should have clicked that link before posting my comment.
posted by dersins at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2009


The revised version?
posted by chillmost at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I feel very comfortable declaring that this guy is a world-class douche.

Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".
I happen to agree with his expressed sentiments, and find this work moving and done with great care and loving compassion. Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this (although I've seen some better landscape work elsewhere.)
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The guy fails at history for including Thomas Paine, the author of a particularly famous anti-Christian tract.

The best one is the immigrant with his hand up and the explanation thereof. "IT'S CHRIST OH SHIII..."
posted by selfnoise at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2009


I think Jefferson, being a Deist, should have a more surprised expression.

/me goes to linked Wikipedia article...

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson states that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the "Christian System" ... He proposes ... concluding with the "principles of a pure deism" taught by Jesus, "omitting the question of his deity."
...
Jefferson explains that he really doesn't have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish the task.


Damn you, Sally Hemings, and your feminine wiles! If it weren't for you distracting him with your flirtatious looks and kick-ass apple pie, maybe we wouldn't be having all these problems.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2009


This is totally the "My Country is Better than Your Country" patriotism at its ugliest. He's using his love of America as a wedge against liberals, which seems to imply that he deeply loves his ideology and sees patriotism as a way to point B.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Mr. McNaughton's work is emblematic of the Decline of the West.
posted by rdone at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


They really want to make sure you understand
HOW DO I PAY FOR MY ORDER?
WHAT IS THE COMPANY'S POLICY FOR RETURNS?
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR ME TO RECEIVE MY ORDER?
HOW DO I PAY FOR MY ORDER?
WHAT IS THE COMPANY'S POLICY FOR RETURNS?
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR ME TO RECEIVE MY ORDER?
HOW DO I PAY FOR MY ORDER?
WHAT IS THE COMPANY'S POLICY FOR RETURNS?
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR ME TO RECEIVE MY ORDER?
ad infinitum at that "only living artist in the world today" link.
posted by zoinks at 5:59 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".
Just because you agree with his political sentiments does not make him a good artist, nor does it make this painting anything other than laughable.
posted by deanc at 6:02 PM on October 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


Nothing against the gays? I'm so disappointed...
posted by sbutler at 6:02 PM on October 6, 2009


Years ago, I saw an article in the New York Times Magazine by Tom Wolfe, illustrating the moribund career of a very talented American figurative sculptor with openly neoclassical influences. The way Wolfe told it, he could hardly get a public commission for so much as a metope, because cold-hearted old professors thought his human figures were too sentimental and not nearly Bauhaus enough. I was too young at the time to realize it, but this sculptor's figurative work was silently yet explicitly political, and, in fact, right-wing and anti-intellectual. It was also very pretty, just like the lovely play of light over "Birth of a Nation" -- no, sorry, "One Nation Under God."

You culture vulture you:)

What can I say, I was unemployed. And do you know how hard it is to find a puzzle that isn't basically an airbrush painting but doesn't also cost $18 at a museum gift shop?
posted by Countess Elena at 6:04 PM on October 6, 2009


"I happen to agree with his expressed sentiments, and find this work moving and done with great care and loving compassion. Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this (although I've seen some better landscape work elsewhere.)"

You seem to be confusing quantity of thought with quality of thought.
posted by klangklangston at 6:05 PM on October 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


I'd like to see a legal dramedy that featured an activist judge.

I never really got the anger over activist judges. I mean, it's not like the constitution is some sacred covenant from on high. It's designed to be amended and changed...

Checks painting again

Oh, I see. It's a common misconception among conservatives that Jesus wrote the constitution, so thus it cannot be changed or added to without damnation, as said in Revelations.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:05 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


This would not be out of place at MoBA. And I would not touch it if it was at MoMA.
posted by maxwelton at 6:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's using his love of America as a wedge against liberals

I don't think this man loves America:

Fifty Stars. Represents the fifty states of the Union. Some shine brighter than others.

One need not struggle to ascertain the algorithm that determines a star's luminosity: it is proportional to their Republican vote share. The artist loves American democracy until it disagrees with him.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2009 [24 favorites]


M. Kinkade is still the worst goddamn painter in America.

AMEN.
posted by Jikido at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2009


Just because you agree with his political sentiments does not make him a good artist, nor does it make this painting anything other than laughable.

The political/religious sentiments (which I agree with) , and the quality of the work are two different things. They are both formidable here, IMO , and as far as the artwork itself -anyone familiar with studying art over years can verify, or at least take this work into better consideration -- once again, political/religious viewpoint aside. One can take either on its own merits. Labeling him a "douche" adds nothing to the discussion.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2009


Wait.. what? This wasn't a velvet painting? Sure has the iconic capacity to be such. I expect to be seeing renditions of this by the roadside next summer.
posted by edgeways at 6:12 PM on October 6, 2009


Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this
Well, anyone who puts Jefferson (who rewrote the Bible to remove any indication that Jesus was a god), Franklin (who said he found the Christian dogma he grew up with to be unintelligible), Paine (who said that it would be more appropriate to call the Bible the word of a demon than the word of god), and various other non-Christian Founding Fathers into a painting like this obviously didn't put enough thought into it.
posted by Flunkie at 6:15 PM on October 6, 2009 [37 favorites]


This is either hardcore snark or mind-blowing racism.
Frederick Douglas
A famous abolitionist and fighter for women's suffrage. He gets to stand in the very back.
F***ing. Awesome.
posted by Decimask at 6:16 PM on October 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


The only thing more bizarre than these paintings is the notion that America is God's favorite country.
posted by contessa at 6:19 PM on October 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


This isn't a painting, it's a cudgel.
posted by lekvar at 6:22 PM on October 6, 2009 [15 favorites]


(I now realize I'm looking at the "revised version" captions)
American Soldier
Represents the modern American Soldier. With "King" written on his body armor, he also fills in for Martin Luther King, Jr., because we can't have two black guys right next to each other. That'd be a mob.
*applause*
posted by Decimask at 6:23 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


In 1797, President Adams signed a treaty stating:

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...

Should he really be in a painting which might as well be called "One Nation Under Christ"?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:23 PM on October 6, 2009


Good thing it had that accompanying List of Symbolism. Otherwise I would have absolutely no idea what he was gettin' at.

and this painting fucking blows.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:23 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I love about the painting is his need to descriptively explain all his hyper-literal "symbols." Eg. "This is an F-16 pilot. He symbolizes AMERICA'S PILOTS!" and "This is a civil war soldier how symbolizes SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. His hands are over his face because he is SAD which symbolizes how the Civil War was also SAD!"
posted by deanc at 6:24 PM on October 6, 2009 [20 favorites]


let me sum this up... what fucking shit this is...
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 PM on October 6, 2009


Anyone who describes Reagan as "A true patriot of freedom" is a complete wanker. This is not a seeker of truth, he has already found what he thinks is truth. It is well evident, or as he puts it himself "There is contempt for any other viewpoint".

This is a anti-intellectual, rapture-fantasist, facile painting representing the painters commentator's puerile fantasies. Whether you paint it, or write about it, it still boils down to the same thing, the fellow is a fundamentalist loon.
posted by edgeways at 6:25 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".

No. The fact that he's a god damned historical revisionist with his absurdly presented subject matter and simplistic take on American history makes him a douche. Or at least an extreme fantasist. And comedic one.

I mean what are these founding figures doing with their arms raised palms up? Singing Swanee River? To me it looks like some poorly rendered Junior High School "Figures of American History" musical pageant.

He may have put hours into it but not much thought. Other than "Boy, I bet some rich Mormon goober will eat this shit up!"
posted by tkchrist at 6:28 PM on October 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".
I happen to agree with his expressed sentiments, and find this work moving and done with great care and loving compassion. Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this (although I've seen some better landscape work elsewhere.)


Having valid sentiments does not preclude one from being a douchebag, and putting them in a (badly done) painting does not make it good. In fact, I'd say that cramming the entirety of a party line into a (badly done) painting, calling it art and patting yourself on the back DOES make you a douchebag. Referring to yourself as "the only living artist in the world" makes you a douchebag.

Did I mention that it's a bad painting? It's composed like a Fark photoshop contest entry, which is an amazing coincidence because the painting itself looks like a photoshop filter. The faces are all blank and they eyes are looking at nothing in particular. You know what else makes one a hack/douchebag? Painting precious impressionist paintings according to a school style and selling them to the "my kid could do that" brand of dimwit.

I also find it exceedingly obvious and cynical to put all of these American myths and archetypes together. If it were sarcastic or kitsch, it would only be infinitesimally more thoughtful.

Have I been trolled?
posted by cmoj at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


This is like the painting at the end of Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard, only, y'know, the exact opposite.
posted by Ndwright at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


This pisses me off because THIS is what way too many people think I do when I tell them what I do.
posted by cmoj at 6:32 PM on October 6, 2009


Request of someone with talent: FSM photoshop to replace Jesus.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:32 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nah, the Mormon have their own "inventive" painter.
posted by not_the_water at 6:33 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nah, the Mormon have their own "inventive" painter.

Wait, that painting isn't terrible. What's the fun in that?
posted by molybdenumblue at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2009


Oh, man, let me say which parts of the painting I love.

I love how Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't get to stand in for himself, but instead gets the homage of having a soldier in body armor represent him. Because MLK is cool with being interchangeable like that.

Also I imagine the point where the artist was like, 'I need more women or someone will yell at me. Dolly Madison! She saved some of her husband's documents! Yes! A true American hero and a good wife.'
posted by redsparkler at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mr. Hollywood : He represents your entertainment business in America. It is very apparent that there is a liberal slant in Hollywood. He looks down at the judge and pregnant woman with ridicule and amusement.

One's political leanings aside: what does it say about their position that it finds expression at an elementary school reading level?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ahahahaha. If you didn't mouse over the painting for details, do so. Multiple laughs.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:37 PM on October 6, 2009


"Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority".
(Arthur Schopenhauer, Aphorisms)
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:37 PM on October 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


Hey! Strident hectoring Victroian Social Realism is back and he's PISSED.
posted by The Whelk at 6:38 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


He's the Ayn Rand of fine art.
posted by mosk at 6:39 PM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Or, you know, an oil-paint political cartoon. Without the wit. Whatevers.
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 PM on October 6, 2009


Anyone who thinks this guy is a talented painter doesn't deserve eyes.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:51 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nah, the Mormon have their own "inventive" painter.

At least that guy could paint.

Side note: As I kid I remember looking at Arnold Friberg's stuff in that illustrated Book of Mormon that my Great Aunt had displayed on her coffee table. Her basement had an entire library of Readers Digest and Mormon Teen illustrated "Literature". That's where we kids bivouacked when we stayed at her ranch in Idaho. However my uncle also kept his Hemingway, Vardis Fisher, and and — hidden away behind the Nat. Geographics — his Playboys there. I don't know art, but I know what I like.
posted by tkchrist at 6:52 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the Most Wanted Painting. I mean, who doesn't like George Washington?
posted by albrecht at 6:52 PM on October 6, 2009


"Very talented artist"?

This is crap. Just cuz you agree with the political/religious viewpoints does not make this good work. Perspective is whacked, images are flat, jebus is in it, etc.
posted by Windopaene at 6:52 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what other imagery is broken down into sections with magnanimous prose describing the features of each one? That's right, retail catalogues. This is not art any more than those are art. It is a shameless attempt to pander to the people who already agree with the views expressed in these blurbs.

I'm not That Guy who believes art can't be straightforward and literal. But good art must say something meaningful that people are not otherwise able to put into words.

Those who agree with this artist's viewpoints are already well-versed in the explicit messages of this piece. It neither broadens nor deepens their understanding of their world.

Those who disagree with his viewpoints (in addition to having the facts of history on their side) are not going to discover any truths as a result of this work that they'd been inwardly denying.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:53 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


This pisses me off because THIS is what way too many people think I do when I tell them what I do.

... you're Jesus?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:54 PM on October 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


(Arnold Friberg is not a very good painter, either. He's not as bad as McNaughton in some respects, but he paints people with biceps bigger than their torsos and horses that are like 40 feet tall.)
posted by The World Famous at 6:55 PM on October 6, 2009


After mousing over all this dude's toxic distortions of history, I feel I know enough about his worldview to be confident in saying that his ideal version of the United States would terrify, disgust and outrage both Jesus Christ and every patriot that McNaughton posed next to this laughably Anglo-Saxon interpretation of Him.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:56 PM on October 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


what does it say about their position that it finds expression at an elementary school reading level?

As someone who teaches college English, I am sad to say that his writing is at least sophomore-level. Of course, I am in Arizona...
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This painting is way more wanted.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:58 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love how Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't get to stand in for himself, but instead gets the homage of having a soldier in body armor represent him. Because MLK is cool with being interchangeable like that.

And we all know what a big supporter of war MLK was.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:59 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think Seekerofsplendor is just trolling us. There's no one on Metafilter who would actually argue in favor of this steaming turd. It's a laughable monstrosity. Don't feed the trolls.
posted by MythMaker at 6:59 PM on October 6, 2009


Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this (although I've seen some better landscape work elsewhere.)

....(I'm going to address this part of your comment seriously.) If you read about the actual stories of each of these people, you may come to realize that he didn't put very much "thought" into this at all. I mean, if he had put thought into it, he would have realized that in his efforts to try to "look patriotic" he had inadvertently shoehorned in atheists, Deists, and non-Christians into his work. In fact, his including these "symbols" without looking into their actual histories reflects not "some thought", but rather an absence of thought -- he has parroted back the popular kitsch symbol rather than thinking one up on his own.

And I think this is why people are scoffing at his work -- because it is kitsch. It is a very textbook example of kitsch, imitating the superficial and melodramatic in "art" rather than trying to produce something that is a genuine statement.

I'm sorry if that stings -- but the man has made mistakes about these people's backgrounds that five minutes on Wikipedia could have stopped him from making. That doesn't sound like "some thought" to me. He was going for the sentimental "symbol". That's kitsch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 PM on October 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


Also: My initial reaction was similar to Countess Elena's - that is, on first approaching the image, it struck me as too absurd to be anything but satirical. I should have closed the tab when I realized he was being sincere, because whenever I play a round of "Let's Peek into the Headspace of the Extreme Religious Right," I always lose.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:01 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".
I happen to agree with his expressed sentiments, and find this work moving and done with great care and loving compassion. Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this (although I've seen some better landscape work elsewhere.)


My sarcasm meter is very very broken. Right?
posted by kmz at 7:03 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Proof at last: Aragorn wrote the constitution.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry if that stings -- but the man has made mistakes about these people's backgrounds that five minutes on Wikipedia could have stopped him from making.

But Wikipedia has that well known liberal bias.
posted by tkchrist at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2009


John Adams looks like he is about to start dancing across that stage.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:05 PM on October 6, 2009


Remember that time when James Dean, Marylin Monroe, Elvis, and Humphrey Bogart all hung out in a rip-off of an Edward Hopper painting? That was awesome. Now that guy put some serious thought into his painting. Why isn't there a mouse-over-annotated version of that one?
posted by The World Famous at 7:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


(And apparently I can't spell. Sorry, Marilyn.)
posted by The World Famous at 7:07 PM on October 6, 2009


I am curious as to why "Business Woman" and "Handicapped Child" don't have any descriptive text.
posted by Flunkie at 7:08 PM on October 6, 2009


seekerofsplendor: They are both formidable here, IMO , and as far as the artwork itself -anyone familiar with studying art over years can verify, or at least take this work into better consideration -- once again, political/religious viewpoint aside.

Hi. I studied art over years. Divorcing the image itself of the artist-intended symbolism included (I didn't even read the mouseovers until I formulated my opinion first), this is what I came away with: Although the artist has certain technical skills (perspective, ability to reproduce some images from other painting/drawings/photographs with varying results as well as classical motifs, ability to paint realistic people in terms of dimension and and position, a good, almost photo-realistic hand with decoration/fabric). It is a mixed bag in terms of technique; some of it is fairly technically advanced, some of it seems very much like the work of an art school student. Based only on this work, he strikes me more as an illustrator-copyist manque than a mature artist.

That said, Technical skill alone is not enough to make great art. There's an intangible spark in great art that goes beyond one's ability to replicate what one sees/imagines. The picture reads flat to me, even with his technical ability to paint 3-d figures so they don't look like cut-outs. I don't get a sense of life from the people in the picture at all. It comes off as a collage more than a unified painting. Let's take Rivera's Pan-American mural (has a tiny zoom feature for seeing detail) as a point of comparison. Both have a message and a collection of disparate people placed together. There's a spirit and electricity in Rivera's piece that I don't see in this one, a stronger composition, and distinctive artist's hand/style. Even with Rivera's advantage of a much larger canvas, his figures have a spirit and a connection with the whole painting that is lacking in McNaughton's.

So, I vote Not Formidable, much less impressive.
posted by julen at 7:10 PM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "That's kitsch."

Fascism is intrinsically kitsch.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:11 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


he strikes me more as an illustrator-copyist manque than a mature artist.

It's completely flat and the perspective is wonky as hell and the treatment is light is hamfisted at best. If you want to make a fucking statement about painting in a traditional representational way then you actually have to, you know, paint things well.
posted by The Whelk at 7:12 PM on October 6, 2009


Also, color is thrown out and is completely all over the place. If you're working in style than Color becomes Really Fucking Important, for both compositional and stylistic needs.
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 PM on October 6, 2009


in this style*
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 PM on October 6, 2009


Whoops, in rampant editing down, I left out a critical adjective; I meant to say "unsuccessful illustrator-copyist" not just "illustrator-copyist".

I don't disagree, The Whelk; my review came off as more positive than I intended.
posted by julen at 7:19 PM on October 6, 2009


The schoolteacher appears to be modeled after Sarah Palin.

Also, this post and discussion thread is profoundly entertaining.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:20 PM on October 6, 2009


*are*

durr
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:21 PM on October 6, 2009


and as far as the artwork itself -anyone familiar with studying art over years can verify, or at least take this work into better consideration

I've been a professional art critic for two decades and am currently working on a year-long project with the Walker Art Center.

I say it's shit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:26 PM on October 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Whelp. This is it boys and girls. After years of fruitless searching, I've finally found the perfect artwork for that ironic back tattoo I've been meaning to get.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:27 PM on October 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


I fucking love this thing. It's like an advent calendar of Christian lunacy. Is that redundant? Now I want some candy.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:28 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, I see. It's a common misconception among conservatives that Jesus wrote the constitution, so thus it cannot be changed or added to without damnation, as said in Revelations.

I wouldn't be so sure about the bible there...
posted by Navelgazer at 7:29 PM on October 6, 2009


(And I love the hidden "satan" detail: it's like a Christian fundamentalist version of "Where's Waldo?" only less technically accomplished.)
posted by saulgoodman at 7:30 PM on October 6, 2009


It's to bad the Founding Fathers didn't think to have paintings just like this one commissioned for every building in DC. I've always thought it was odd that this "Christain Nation" doesn't have pictures of Jesus all over it's offical buildings and letterhead.
posted by nola at 7:32 PM on October 6, 2009


Nah, the Mormon have their own "inventive" painter.

I'm pretty sure this guy is Mormon. Note the reference to Five Thousand Year Leap(college student, bottom left) Also, he says the Constitution is a divinely inspired document, which is mainline Mormon theology
posted by empath at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This painting is filled with shit strained through a mesh screen made of Ron Jeremy's back hair. Fuck this painting.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:35 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we do a real-life reenactment of this at the next metafilter meetup?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:36 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this guy is Mormon. Note the reference to Five Thousand Year Leap
I'm not saying he's not Mormon, but a reference to Five Thousand Year Leap doesn't cut it as proof. It's been selling like hotcakes among the loony fringe* of the right wing, Mormon and not, ever since Glenn Beck started pushing it.

*: I'm not so sure that "fringe" is applicable in this context anymore
posted by Flunkie at 7:42 PM on October 6, 2009


but a reference to Five Thousand Year Leap doesn't cut it as proof.


I've never heard of this before, could you give some background wikipedia has nothing of use.
posted by nola at 7:48 PM on October 6, 2009


Perhaps the artist actually feels good about including folks like Jefferson in the painting, despite Jefferson's beliefs. It's his own earnest nod towards inclusiveness, as if to say that he, too, can look beyond people's actual history and theologies and acknowledge that they can all work together to accomplish the greater good of Jesus' United States and Accompanying Documents. Despite their sinful natures, the Lord works through them and yea verily.
posted by redsparkler at 7:53 PM on October 6, 2009


I've never heard of this before, could you give some background wikipedia has nothing of use.

Here.
posted by empath at 7:55 PM on October 6, 2009


Only the revised version is loading for me, and I'm rather happy about that.
posted by brundlefly at 7:56 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


but is it "sofa sized?"
posted by pianomover at 7:57 PM on October 6, 2009


nola: " I've never heard of [Five Thousand Year Leap] before, could you give some background "

In this book, discover the 28 Principles of Freedom our Founding Fathers said must be understood and perpetuated by every people who desire peace, prosperity, and freedom. Learn how adherence to these beliefs during the past 200 years has brought about more progress than was made in the previous 5000 years.

Glenn Beck calls the book - which was written by his spiritual mentor - "divinely inspired".

That probably tells you all you need to know.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2009


"It's completely flat and the perspective is wonky as hell and the treatment is light is hamfisted at best. If you want to make a fucking statement about painting in a traditional representational way then you actually have to, you know, paint things well."

Nah, he's working in the style of American Limner Paintings and evoking James Ensor (Belgium's famous painter).

(Sorry, too many art history classes have primed me to see any crappiness as intentional.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm missing something, but the "revised version" looks to be exactly the same as the one linked in the FPP. Any help on the differences?

Additionally, since I'm not sure anyone noticed my first comment and it seems kinda noteworthy - Conservatives are now working to rewrite the Bible to be in line with modern American conservative ideology. Literally.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2009


Maybe I'm missing something, but the "revised version" looks to be exactly the same as the one linked in the FPP. Any help on the differences?

Scroll over the images in the painting and read the captions. The revised version translates the artist's Fundamentalese into English.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:06 PM on October 6, 2009


I've never heard of this before, could you give some background wikipedia has nothing of use.

The Five Thousand Year Leap is a metaphor to describe the state of mind of a person who wants to kill themselves after being told this is a "great work of art" but worries that in the time between launch and splat all they'll be able to think about is this painting. Reality says that person will be dead in seconds; to them it will seem like 5,000 years. Death cannot come quickly enough.*

* Though when he does come he will disguised as a white fireman with a stylized badge of the twin towers collapsing on his helmet.
posted by maxwelton at 8:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


As is so often the case, there is more wit, humor and intelligence in the comments of MeFites, than it the link they are commenting on.
posted by vac2003 at 8:11 PM on October 6, 2009


or even, "in the link they are commenting on."
posted by vac2003 at 8:12 PM on October 6, 2009


Ok, we have established that he is a crap artist, but what amuses me is his thought processes. Reading his written work and his interview reminds me of conversations I have had with muddle-headed people-- those who have "gut instincts" but cannot convey what they mean coherently largely because their thought processes are based in emotion rather than logic.

He says that the people in the foreground on the right side represent "types of individuals whom I believe have weakened our country." Then he says the young pregnant woman is "pointing at the handicapped child and she is saying, 'I want to keep my baby.'" The young pregnant woman is far too advanced in her pregnancy to contemplate an abortion, PLUS she is saying she wants to keep her baby. So why is she on the right side-- the side, remember, that is dragging our country down? Just by virtue of her pregnancy? Because she had a choice? And why is she pointing at the handicapped child and saying "I want that."? Why not the boy running up to touch the constitution?

Then there is the immigrant on the left. The left side are "strong, patriotic, hard working Americans" who sit at the right hand of God. However, this particular Asian immigrant is not a Christian so he is in "shock when he realizes where America's greatness comes from." Since when do heathens sit on the right hand of God? Does this mean he will be changing religions?

I think my very favorite quote is "50 Stars. Represent 50 States of the Union. Some stars shine brighter than others." Gosh I sure wish they were labeled. Is Texas the brightest star? Or maybe Alaska (all that yummy, yummy oil.) Kansas? Hawaii has to be the dimmest because it is so un-America with its tropical paradise, its native people lolling around eating fruit. Or maybe the dimmest of all award goes to Rhode Island for being so small. Or California for being so wacky. Sigh. We'll never know.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:13 PM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


No, Navelgazer, I saw it, read the whole link and, just cuz I was feeling masochistic, followed another link in that article to find out how Conservopedia defined "liberal" - the experience of reading these two things in tandem left me too disgusted, confused and demoralized to say anything about them.

In a way, I'm almost relieved these extremists want to write their own "sacred text" that's more inline with their insane worldview. Can you imagine the titanic cognitive dissonance it must have required to use Jesus Christ as the backbone for a perspective that boosts the rich, shits on the poor, celebrates war and insists that even Ceasar renders unto their doctrine? I'm no Christian, but I've sure felt bad for all the slander Jesus has had to endure from his "followers" over the years. If only this Bible revision would include a change of main character. Reagan, Davy Crockett, or the right's cartoonish conception of Teddy Roosevelt would be just about perfect.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:15 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


ANd now I see that what I thought was a big find of mine was in fact an FPP yesterday. Sorry, y'all.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:17 PM on October 6, 2009


Fools. Don't you know this is a plot hatched by Obama and carried out by the CIA, FBI and Council on Foreign Relations? Prints of this painting will all have GPS tracking devices embedded in the frames, so they will be able to locate and round up the True Patriots and take them to the FEMA camps more efficiently.
posted by Jimbob at 8:21 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


According to HuffPo the artist is from Utah.

Dude's GOTTA either be Mormon or heavily influenced by Mormons, because they do wrap religion and politics together like that like some demented burrito.

That painting makes me want to puke. And I'm a Christian and a Republican. And I'm sure Jesus is none too thrilled with it either.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Re: the possible Mormon angle, the painting appears to be extremely heavily influenced by a particularly popular and well-known-among-mormons painting.
posted by The World Famous at 8:36 PM on October 6, 2009


I've been lurking here for the last 8 years, never finding a compelling reason to post - until now.

I had heard yesterday of the "conservative" plan to rewrite the bible and take all the wussy language/concepts out of it, and then this morning I was introduced to the work of this Mc Naughton fellow. I was getting damned depressed, and then I saw this link to the "revised version" as you put it, and it just cheered me up so much.

That, and the little side trip I took into "Need For The Steed" that mccarty.tim posted.

God I love this place
posted by cybrcamper at 8:44 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mormon for sure.
posted by empath at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2009


Painting the face of Christ is one of the most difficult things for an artist to do. People often have different thoughts on how he should look. As an artist I look to create a symbol of the man. It is most important that I capture the feeling of the Savior of the world more than try to create an anthropological version.

I love how he agonized over how to paint Jesus and ended up with the blandest, most un-original generic Jesus possible. He didn't want to go with an "anthropological version" because then Jesus wouldn't look like a white man of European extraction so beloved by Americans. God forbid that Jesus should look Middle Eastern or even ~gasp~ Jewish! This is the safe, sanitized, gentle Jesus of night-lights found in bedrooms everywhere.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


What a lame crock.

He spelled Thomas "Payne" [sic] wrong.

This makes me cringe to be an artist.
posted by Forrest Greene at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2009


Decent technical chops, weapons grade corniness.
posted by Scoo at 8:47 PM on October 6, 2009


He may have put hours into it but not much thought. Other than "Boy, I bet some rich Mormon goober will eat this shit up!"

Don't worry, it's much less cheaper. You can by two for the price of The Steed.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2009


OMG, filthy light thief, that is a kitsch goldmine.
posted by nowonmai at 9:03 PM on October 6, 2009


Uh, oh, they're promoting the liberal parts of the bible.
posted by empath at 9:04 PM on October 6, 2009


Enough with the goddamn Anglo Jesuses, people. Dude didn't look like Kurt Cobain.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2009


Well, I feel very comfortable saying that this very talented artist is a seeker of truth. Just because you apparently disagree with his religious or patriotic views does not make him a "douche".... Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all together with the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this....

Well then, frankly, you're woefully (or willfully) ignorant of much of American history, as is the painter.

Jefferson and Thomas Paine both "face-checked" in the painting as supporters of the painter's contention that the US Constitution is literally and God-inspired miracle, were deists. That means that they believed that if God existed at all, He was not active in the world, and did not cause miracles. Jefferson in fact authored his own version of the Bible, in which all miracles attributed to Jesus were removed. Paine, imprisoned and awaiting his expected execution, hurried to complete an essay pointing out the inconsistencies of the Bible. And while Jefferson did oppose judicial review, he also adamantly thought constitutions were not divinely inspired and perfect but instead required frequent revision.

This is common knowledge; we must assume that McNaughton, your "seeker of truth" either doesn't bother to seek out basic facts about the persons he depicts, or that he is willfully misleading his audience.

But even worse, by attempting to conflate the "civic religion" of the US Constitution with Christianity, he manages to cheapen both. He sees no irony in claiming as God's work a document that in its First (and foremost) Amendment explicitly separates religion from polity -- at the insistence of the aforementioned Jefferson, among others.

And he cheapens Jesus, who commanded his apostles (Matthew 28:19) to "teach all nations" by making the Christ not universal but particular to one nation, juxtaposing the Prince of Peace with not just one US soldier, but with US soldiers representing the whole history of the US under arms, by implicitly claiming that of all nations, only one's fundamental law comes from Jesus.

And quite frankly, no matter what your political beliefs, McNaughton's conceit, that the US Constitution is a literal God-inspired miracle, is dangerous. Forget that in his notes on the painting, McNaughton lauds John Bircher Cleon Skousen, the Glenn Beck of the nineteen sixties, while excluding from the pantheon Martin Luther King -- the American whose struggle and martyrdom finally made us uphold the Constitution for all races -- and then giving an anonymous black soldier the nametag "King" to make sure his backhanded swipe isn't unnoticed. Forget that he subordinates the real authors of that blueprint for governance, Madison, Jay, and Hamilton, to Ronald Reagan, Jesus, and the caricatures of "liberals" McNaughton feels the need to demonize.

McNaughton's real crime is that he fails to understand that the US Constitution isn't some rah-rah feel-good hymn we can all sing along to, but a carefully constructed, meticulously researched attempt to provide for a system of government that can work not because its enactors are angels, but despite their all-to-human selfishness and flaws.

The very point of the Constitution is that its several and elaborate checks and balances -- including the judicial review McNaughton despises -- that permit it to work among fallible and self-interested and decidedly non-angelic men, by opposing one selfish interest with others: by balancing popular representation of the demos in the House against the Senators originally appointed by states; by giving the legislature the sole right to enact laws and appropriate money and the executive the sole right to sign and carry out laws and spend money; by giving populous states more representatives but all states two senators; by enumerating in that late addition, the Bill of Rights, a list of things that government could never do, reserving those rights to the people; etc, etc.

McNaughton gets none of this, in his foolish belief that the Constitution is not a self-consciously imperfect document that acknowledges its own imperfection by incorporating in itself the mechanism to amend itself. Instead, McNaughton believes it to be a miracle springing perfect and fully formed from Zeus's Jesus's brow -- and therefore not only unchanging but without need for judicial review.

This is purely dangerous, because it suggests that the creation of a nation and its fundamental law is not a difficult birth, "a Republic, if you can keep it" in Franklin's words, but as easy as merely holding an unwavering faith and praying for God's aid. It tells succeeding generations not that we must struggle as diligently and meticulously as the Federalists and anti-Federalists did (broadly and respectively, to write the Constitution and to limit it with the Bill of Rights) by researching systems of law and diligently re-reading Locke and Hobbes and Montesquieu and studying the histories of republics and tyrannies, but that we can instead just sit on out asses and pray and get, gratis from Jesus, the same results as the Founders got with scholarship and hard work and lots of horse-trading and mundane -- worldly, secular! -- politics.

In truth, McNaughton painting isn't about the Constitution at all. To judge by his painting, he knows nothing about the Constitution or its genesis other than the names of famous Americans associated with it. Instead, he's merely appropriating this symbol of our civic religion, and appropriating the secular saints of that religion, our pantheon of American heroes, to facilitate his ugly and partisan axe-grinding against "activist judges" and Roe v. Wade. To facilitate that same puerile and Manichean separation of Americans into "good guys" and "Satan's followers" I've mentioned elsewhere.

The Constitution -- and his Aryan-looking Jesus, for that matter -- are mere props he sets up to oppose the strawmen "liberals" and "secularists" McNaughton hates and fears. He's hoping our love for our heroes, our emotional "glurge" at seeing them assembled en masse, will make us swallow his hate without noticing the bitter taste or execrable artwork or poor scholarship. It's a glib and facile and frankly ugly editorial cartoon, dressed up as "art" and "faith" to fool the gullible and ignorant.

Jefferson famously wrote "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever", referring to the Three-Fifths Compromise that enshrined slavery in the (divinely-inspired?) US Constitution. I tremble for my country when I see ignorant fools swallowing such an obvious excrescence as McNaughton's "art".
posted by orthogonality at 9:14 PM on October 6, 2009 [175 favorites]


Enough with the goddamn Anglo Jesuses, people. Dude didn't look like Kurt Cobain.

Totally. There weren't even lumberjacks in the New Testament, so where would Grunge Jesus get the plaid shirts?

Wait, did I write "much less cheaper"? I am sorry, I should stop trying to multitask while posting comments.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:18 PM on October 6, 2009


The biggest pity of all is that, were it satire, this would be genius.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:26 PM on October 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


Hah, I didn't even notice Thomas Paine in the painting:

"What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith."

"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."


quotes from The Age of Reason.
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


orthogonality, I believe you have written the definitive critique of this piece. Thank you.
posted by Richard Daly at 9:41 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Totally. There weren't even lumberjacks in the New Testament, so where would Grunge Jesus get the plaid shirts?

Not to mention all that wood for his apparently-not-good-enough-to-justify-making-it-a-full-time-job carpentry. Wait--did I just uncover a new miracle? Could Jesus turn water into wood?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 PM on October 6, 2009


Any artist who puts Jesus Christ, Lincoln, JFK, Reagan, Jefferson, Clara Barton and Susan B. Anthony all togetherwith the others from all walks of life has obviously put some thought into all this...

Yes, this is precisely the sort of statement that any sensible person can agree with and get behind. There's a guy up the back looks like fucking Han Solo and Jesus has the cold, dead eyes of a killer. Is D.C. even laid out like that? Where are all the guns? No seriously there's like a dozen soldiers and not a rifle between them. Also I spot maybe four black people and not a single Hispanic, and not many women either, except for the pregnant slut, who is obviously a slut because she is pregnant and isn't wearing a wedding ring, unlike the chick on the left with the child.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:55 PM on October 6, 2009


The explanations about what the various characters are thinking are rather lame. A good artist shouldn't have to explain the thoughts of subjects in his painting to that kind of detail--their general mood should be discernible. This is less worthwhile than a throwaway political cartoon in the daily rag.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:05 PM on October 6, 2009


Oh my God, do I really have to critique this as art? All right, here goes.

First and foremost, arranging all the figures in this symmetrical, neo-classical tableau to throw focus on a central figure has been trite and formulaic for at least a millenium. Seriously, ignoring the content for the moment, the arrangement alone is Visual Arts 101 level work. We could discount this particular painting's quality almost entirely on this point.

Second, what the hell are some of those squatting people sitting on? Their asses are hovering a few inches above the steps that they are allegedly sitting on. This is Rob Liefield level bad.

Third, oh God, using the "bright surrounded by dark" color scheme is another Visual Arts 101 trick loved by many young artists that never advance to Visual Arts 102 because they decide fulfilling their art credit was enough before getting their fucking business degree. If you're painting in 1433, great, you're an innovator. Doing this in 2009 makes you a hack.

And don't even get me started on the fucking dreadlock clouds.

I can go on, but I won't because I never progressed beyond art criticism 101 before getting my fucking business degree.

Conclusion: regardless of the subject matter, this painting is crap.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


i've been lurking on metafilter for about seven years (seriously) and i finally signed up to favorite orthogonality's post.
posted by johnnybeggs at 10:08 PM on October 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


welcome cybrcamper, and johnnybeggs. You can checkout anytime but you can never leave.
posted by nola at 10:19 PM on October 6, 2009


That picture needs lots and lots of penises to make it really pop.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:20 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm Mormon, and I favorited orthogonality's post, as well. McNaughton's painting may reflect the beliefs of a certain subculture of Mormons, but we're not all like that.

(Sure, we're all crazy, gullible idiots, but we're not all crazy in exactly that way.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:24 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


"God forbid that Jesus should look Middle Eastern or even ~gasp~ Jewish!"

I have the feeling that if he tried to paint Jesus as a Jew, he wouldn't be able to get the hook nose or the horns right. It's a theological conundrum, all right.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


if i could photoshop or paint worth a damn i'd put elvis in there instead of jesus - just to bring out the essential tackiness of this "art"
posted by pyramid termite at 10:37 PM on October 6, 2009


Oh! Or how about shirtless Obama from that unicorn painting. That would rock.
posted by ryanrs at 10:44 PM on October 6, 2009


This painting would have been perfect had it included Dale Earnhardt. And if it were airbrushed on the side of a van. A van with a spoiler and a bubble window. A van with mag wheels and ground effects. A van built for hauling Truth.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:11 PM on October 6, 2009 [21 favorites]


So, ortho, just curious...what are you doing in 2016? Maybe looking for a new line of work? Executive position, even? Have I got an idea for you...
posted by maxwelton at 11:22 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude's GOTTA either be Mormon or heavily influenced by Mormons, because they do wrap religion and politics together like that like some demented burrito.

Says the single-issue voter about the kettle. Demented is as demented does, honey.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 PM on October 6, 2009


We did decide that "honey" is all good, right? I seem to recall that hitting MeTa the other day, and being surprised that people were cool with it.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 PM on October 6, 2009


We did decide that "honey" is all good, right? I seem to recall that hitting MeTa the other day, and being surprised that people were cool with it.

It depended on where we were from, basically; reading that thread I got the impression that the further south and east you get in the continental, the more vaguely condescending, vaguely sexist terms of endearment are okay to use when addressing perfect strangers, and we have more east coasters than west coasters, I guess.
posted by Caduceus at 11:40 PM on October 6, 2009


Acceptable: Sugar, Honey, Honey Chile, Hon, Sweetie, Darlin',

Not Acceptable: Sweet cheeks, Sugar lips, Babe/Baby, Princess.
posted by empath at 11:56 PM on October 6, 2009


Hon' might as well be 'Sir or Madam' in Baltimore.
posted by empath at 11:57 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mr. Hollywood calls Satan "honey." Just sayin'.
posted by The World Famous at 11:58 PM on October 6, 2009


Metafilter: some demented burrito
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:24 AM on October 7, 2009


My favorite: Pregnant Woman.

The artist painted her and then clearly forgot what he meant when he painted her there. She isn't "Pregnant Woman". She's "UNWED MOTHER". That's why she's with sinners and her left hand is displayed so prominently. Hopefully this guy will get shot and Serrano will go back to being the only living artist.

Just kidding, but you get my point.
posted by CarlRossi at 12:36 AM on October 7, 2009


I vote that this be the next cortex-as-jesus life-imitates-art photo taken at a meetup.
posted by maxwelton at 1:36 AM on October 7, 2009


Sweet monkey frotting Jesus, that's maybe the best thing I've read on this site, orthagonality - including the time I was like "Dongs are lol" in that thread about dongs being lol.
posted by Jofus at 4:46 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's Sarah Palin's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
posted by PlusDistance at 5:00 AM on October 7, 2009 [17 favorites]


I get the feeling from Christ's face in the piece that he just wants to put one hand on top of the other and start making circular movements with his thumbs.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:45 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I guess one good thing came out of Hitler not getting in to art school.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:51 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Second, what the hell are some of those squatting people sitting on? Their asses are hovering a few inches above the steps that they are allegedly sitting on.

It's a teabagging reference.
posted by rokusan at 6:12 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fifty Stars. Represents the fifty states of the Union. Some shine brighter than others.

Hmmm...would the brightly shining ones be the states that take more from the federal government than they put in and then bitch about the government and the West Coast liberals that are subsidizing them? Socialism and gummint handouts are just fine when they're the recipients.

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...

The Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously approved by the Senate.

I spot maybe four black people and not a single Hispanic, and not many women either

It's like the Republican Convention last year. America's changing into a majority-minority country, and the Republicans are reinforcing, pandering to, and exploiting the fears and prejudices of scared old white people instead of adapting to the changing times and coming up with any actual ideas of their own. This painting's another symbol of that, and it's just going to get uglier and uglier.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:23 AM on October 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I get the feeling from Christ's face in the piece that he just wants to put one hand on top of the other and start making circular movements with his thumbs.

Oh lord. orthogonality's brilliant critique, and Jesus Christ doing the awkward turtle all in one thread. This is why I love Metafilter. This Guy approves.
posted by This Guy at 6:33 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm getting dizzy trying to follow the eyes. WHERE ARE THESE PEOPLE LOOKING?

Really, someone should Photoshop Waldo into this and on mouse-over he could be "The elusive American dream."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


This painting's another symbol of that, and it's just going to get uglier and uglier.

I can't imagine that painting getting much uglier.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:07 AM on October 7, 2009


I may print this thread out and carry it around with me just to have something to console myself with when I invariably get shown this steaming turd during a tour of one of my relatives' homes and they are showing off their "art."

You guys are great. *sniff* No man, I really mean it, you're great... Oh, I'm sorry, did I wake you up? I didn't realize how late it was... I love you, man. Wanna come over for a drink?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:25 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain this to me? I didn't know Jesus was a conjoined twin sharing an arm with a junkie.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:47 AM on October 7, 2009


The bit that made me laugh out loud about the parody was Business Woman left blank again.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:55 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain this to me?

Lies make baby Jesus cry, shooting up makes growed-up Jesus high.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:56 AM on October 7, 2009


Can someone explain this to me? I didn't know Jesus was a conjoined twin sharing an arm with a junkie.

What? So Jesus likes to party. So what?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:15 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


MotherJones: Crippled Kids Walk With Jesus, Lefty Journos With Satan.
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on October 7, 2009


Jon McNaughton's Facebook page. Sampling of comments:
"The new painting, 'One Nation Under God' has in the last 24 hours come under heavy attack from several liberal blog websites. We received almost 5,000 hits to the website. I had a feeling if I stuck my neck out on this painting there woul...d be a reaction. Thank you for your support. It means a lot to me."

"Jon, don't know if you follow Glenn Beck at all, but he has been asking for his listeners to create patriotic paintings and send in photos of them. He'd probably love this one!!"

"Don't worry about the liberals. They must have nothing better to do right now. I find it is better to ignore then to fight back!"
posted by ericb at 8:27 AM on October 7, 2009


We did decide that "honey" is all good, right?

Don't worry your pretty little head about it.
posted by rokusan at 8:28 AM on October 7, 2009


Also from Facebook:
"I will be making a presentation about the new painting, 'One Nation Under God.- -- Book of Mormon Conference | 1:00PM Friday, October 2nd | Zermott Resort, Midway, UT."
posted by ericb at 8:29 AM on October 7, 2009


"Don't worry about the liberals. They must have nothing better to do right now.

It's true. I was working very hard on indoctrinating children to be good little communists, but they're napping.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:41 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you read ericb's MOTHER JONES link -- they report that this painting is inspired by a "vision" the artist had during the 2008 election.

I'm wondering how Obama now fits into his "vision" herein.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


The irony of the immigrant character is that the overwhelming majority of immigrants entering the U.S. are Christians. If anything, immigration is making the U.S. a more Christian nation. A lot of those are Roman Catholics from Latin America, who may not count as real Christians for this guy (of course as a Mormon, he's going to have a lot of people saying he's not a real Christian), but the immigrant in the painting is asian, which more likely make him a Protestant (Charismatic/Pentecostal if he's from Korea - and of course increasing numbers of Latin American immigrants are Pentecostals too).

In fact, let's grab some popcorn and wait for the right-wing Christians to notice this guy is a Mormon and denounce the painting as propaganda for a non-Christian cult. I mean, Jesus holding up the Constitution? He might as well put Joseph Smith in the front row.
posted by straight at 8:53 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


MotherJones: Crippled Kids Walk With Jesus, Lefty Journos With Satan.

From the link:
No matter what your political or religious leanings, you have to admit the details and symbolism here are impressive and painstaking.
No! No it isn't!

Have we gotten to the point where we have such low standards?

I have terrible, terrible taste in art. I know this. I am at peace with it. But I still can tell when something is amateurish pap and when the symbolism doesn't even have symbols.
posted by deanc at 8:55 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


WHBT. WHL. HAND.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:56 AM on October 7, 2009


The new painting, 'One Nation Under God' has in the last 24 hours come under heavy attack from several liberal blog websites.

Oh, if only there were a way to weaponize orthogonality's comment, and use it to shoot at this picture wherever it appeared on the internet. Pew!Pew!

Sadly, we're probably adding to the desireability of this painting by pointing out how awful it is and giving conservatives attention/fuel for their martyr-complexes. Expect to see this dude's artwork as raffle-fodder and in poster form at all future conservative seminars.
posted by emjaybee at 9:08 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


In fact, let's grab some popcorn and wait for the right-wing Christians to notice this guy is a Mormon and denounce the painting as propaganda for a non-Christian cult. I mean, Jesus holding up the Constitution? He might as well put Joseph Smith in the front row.

Well, yeah. Which reminds me, I need to show this thing to my exMormon husband....AFTER preparing the popcorn and chilling the Diet Coke.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2009


Benjamin Franklin:
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” -- Benjamin Franklin Poor Richard's Almanack, 1758

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”
John Adams:
“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

“But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed.” -- John Adams, letters to family and other leaders 1735-1826
Thomas Jefferson:
“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” -- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
James Madison:
“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” -- James Madison, April 1, 1774
Abraham Lincoln:
“My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.” -- Lincoln in a letter to Judge J.S. Wakefield, after the death of Willie Lincoln

“He was an avowed and open infidel, and sometimes bordered on Atheism...He went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard.” -- John T. Stuart, Lincoln's first law partner*
"The founding fathers were a mixture of deists, Christians, and possibly one atheist. Assigning beliefs to the founding fathers collectively, however, is a difficult task. As a group, the founders stopped short of religious establishment because of their own diversity and experience with state sponsored religion in Europe. However, they broadly recognized a 'Creator' or 'Nature’s God' without ascribing to one particular religion. Their belief systems were products of ancient philosophy, the Enlightenment, and the Reformation. Their diverse beliefs, however, refute any exclusive claim to one religion or belief system."*posted by ericb at 9:18 AM on October 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


No matter what your political or religious leanings, you have to admit the details and symbolism here are impressive and painstaking.

I think i've commented on metafilter before about the importance of symbolism to the right-wing/paranoid mindset. It's magical thinking. He's spell casting, not painting.
posted by empath at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, yeah. Which reminds me, I need to show this thing to my exMormon husband....AFTER preparing the popcorn and chilling the Diet Coke.

Yeah, the reason to criticize this is that it's the WRONG kind of BATSHIT CRAZY
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2009


I have terrible, terrible taste in art. I know this. I am at peace with it. But I still can tell when something is amateurish pap and when the symbolism doesn't even have symbols.

Mother Jones folks were feeling bad about ranting at the guy's artwork, when their artistic efforts have gone no farther than high school art class. They still pine for the ability to "paint with light," even if the painting is shiite.

After reading McNaughton'd interview with himself, I think he has skimmed history books for quotes that include "Country" and "God," and he may not understand copyright law:
The present-day American soldier is one of my favorites in the painting. He is a modern 101st Airborne Infantry soldier. He is African American, and you'll notice the name patch on his body armor reads, "KING." I actually had Martin Luther King painted here first, but of copyright issues, I chose to put in a black soldier instead, with the same last name as a tribute to the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

Interviewer: It's a shame that he isn't in the painting – he was a great proponent for equal rights and peaceful demonstrations and really belongs in the painting.
Was he going to paste a photo of MLK in there, or trace over someone else's painting?

And there are so many contradictions in thought. Symbolism on Jesus include an olive branch design to symbolize peace, yet "His sash is red to symbolize the blood spilt by millions of Americans in the name of God and country." This is all about freedom, as long as you don't mention those other religions.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2009


"This may truly be the most important new painting of the twenty first century."

That is a very brazen thing for your website to say about your own painting.

I'll get Saatchi on the line.
posted by Theta States at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2009


"'One Nation Under God' is Jon McNaughton's witness and reminder that those who went before us knew from whence their blessings came!" *

For historical perspective 'In God We Trust' and 'One Nation Under God' were not coined (heh!) until the 19th and 20th centuries:
"According to the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, the motto 'In God We Trust' came about not at the time of the Constitutional Conventions, but due to increased pressures to recognize God on coins and money during the Civil War. In April 22, 1864, Congress passed an Amendment authorizing the motto to be placed on the two-cent coin. It appeared on various coins throughout the years, and appeared on paper money in 1957. The phrase was eventually printed on all paper bills, superseding the motto 'E Pluribus Unum' (From Many, One) adopted by the Union in 1782."*

"The Pledge of Allegiance to the United States is an oath of loyalty to the republic of the United States of America, originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892. The Pledge has been modified four times since then, with the most recent change adding the words 'under God' in 1954."*
posted by ericb at 9:33 AM on October 7, 2009


You know what other painter also had a terrible sense of perspective and proportion?

Yeah I went there, but robocopisbleeding started it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2009


Why is Jesus' robe bearing the White Tree of Gondor?
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why is Jesus' robe bearing the White Tree of Gondor?

I know a lot of Mormons who spend way more time reading Tolkien than they do reading scriptures. So maybe he's doing with LOTR and his religious beliefs what a lot of people do with the Divine Comedy or Shakespeare and thinking that the White Tree of Gondor is in the Bible, since it's in something he read once that had funny phrasing and archaic language.

(One of my favorite things is when someone quotes Dante or Shakespeare and says that it's from the Bible. Even better is when they construct their belief system around such misquotes.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:18 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If these people really want to dial it back to colonial days, are they going to be Congregationalists (state religion of Massachusetts) or Anglicans (most other colonies)?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:42 AM on October 7, 2009


I applaud the effort and good sense that go into posts like ericb's, but I fear that it's sort of talking at cross purposes, part of a larger syndrome that makes it difficult or impossible for people on opposite sides of the cultural divide to make sense of each other.

The people who might wish to own a painting like this aren't attracted to it by a deep interest in real history or because they think it makes some sort of sound argument. They like how it makes them feel. They aren't constructing a new belief system for themselves from a bunch of bad history; they are substituting their own ersatz history, one that justifies and re-enforces feelings and beliefs they already have. They are unlikely to be swayed by a bunch of inconvenient facts. It's the same pattern highlighted recently in the Conservative Bible Project.

I guess that many of them would imagine that debunkers of the painting would be doing it for similar (i.e., emotional) reasons. They would be insulated from such criticism by their own projection. Justifiably so, from their point of view.

That said, I hope ericb keeps it right up.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:55 AM on October 7, 2009


The "symbolism" here is about as subtle as the fake right-wing political cartoons in The Onion. The difference is that The Onion's artist does it on purpose.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like this much better.
via a previous mefi post I can't find
posted by marxchivist at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2009


The "symbolism" here is about as subtle as the fake right-wing political cartoons in The Onion. The difference is that The Onion's artist does it on purpose.

Yep. Makes Herblock's stuff look like Dali.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:31 AM on October 7, 2009


Isn't Barbizon some sort of mall-based "fashion modeling" school?
posted by ooga_booga at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2009


No matter what your political or religious leanings, you have to admit the details and symbolism here are impressive and painstaking.

Symbolism fails when you need hover over footnotes to explain your symbolism.

Let me offer this famous art piece as a visual rebuttal to this one.

And let me offer this little number as being more of equivalent.

And, finally, let me offer My Lonesome Cowboy, Paris Hilton Autopsy and What You see Might Not Be Real as pieces of art that also have overbearing fake symbolism, but are at least funny.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2009


I'm still trying to get my head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion.

Apparently Al Jolson was an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.

Abigail Adams and Dolly Madison are standing behind their husbands.

According to the interview the schoolteacher's a Latina.

Instead of using Christa McAuliffe to "represent those in the space program who have sacrificed for the country," maybe someone who was, you know, actually in the space program would've been more appropriate. Someone like Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom, Ed White, Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, or Ilan Ramon, for example.

Paul Revere. He was a great patriot during the Revolutionary War. Famous for his midnight ride, 'the British are coming!' He stands in front of a window, 'One if by land, two if by sea.' One light is showing.

There were two lanterns, and Revere didn't say, "the British are coming" because at the time the colonists thought of themselves as British.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:44 PM on October 7, 2009


Also, Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not "every man for himself," and the London Underground is not a political movement.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:46 PM on October 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Wierd. This is like something you would find on the back cover of a Mad Magazine. A fold-in by Al Jaffee.
posted by chugg at 12:48 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still trying to get my head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion.

I don't understand this. The idea that Jesus and the 1st Amendment are somehow incompatible has been alluded to above, as well. I don't get it. Maybe there's some fundamental inconsistencey between your understanding of Christian (and/or Mormon) beliefs regarding freedom of religion and mine, or something.

Would you care to explain why it's hard to "get [your] head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion?"

I'm not trying to defend the painting or the artist. I just don't understand that particular criticism.
posted by The World Famous at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2009


High-res Surrender
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


re: High-res Surrender

No matter what your political or religious leanings, you have to admit the details and symbolism here are impressive and painstaking.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:02 PM on October 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Was he going to paste a photo of MLK in there, or trace over someone else's painting?

In fairness, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation has been known to demand licensing fees to use his image. Still, though, if you're going to fancy yourself an "artist," you portray a subject in your art first and worry about attracting any dubious licensing claims later. On the other hand, if you are a purveyor of commercial consumer products, then I can see how you might want to avoid running afoul of such things. Or, more likely, the guy forgot to put MLK, Jr. in there and then figured, "hey, I can put the name 'King' on the black soldier to make up for that oversight."
posted by deanc at 1:02 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now that's art! Somebody needs to make a nifty, interactive annotated version explaining the symbolism of "The Surrender" (I don't volunteer).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2009


..."the British are coming" because at the time the colonists thought of themselves as British.

Exactly. Revere, as well as William Dawes shouted: "...The regulars are coming out!" -- referring to the British Regulars (aka "Red Coats" or"Lobster Backs" by the colonists).
posted by ericb at 1:16 PM on October 7, 2009


Would you care to explain why it's hard to "get [your] head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion?"

I'm with you here. Jesus seemed to find government fairly irrelevant, and many of Paul's letters stressed that faith couldn't be coerced.
posted by empath at 1:26 PM on October 7, 2009


The World Famous: (One of my favorite things is when someone quotes Dante or Shakespeare and says that it's from the Bible. Even better is when they construct their belief system around such misquotes.)

Like fully 90% of the mainstream Christian conception of the devil comes from Paradise Lost.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:40 PM on October 7, 2009


So, it turns out your flag decal can get you into Heaven, after all?
posted by Forrest Greene at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2009


So, it turns out your flag decal can get you into Heaven, after all?

Well, if the song is to be believed, there was a time when a flag decal did get people into heaven, but it no longer will because of an overcrowding problem in Heaven caused by war. If heaven is, indeed, overcrowded and closed to admission on that basis, then not only will a flag decal fail as an admission ticket, but there is no way at all to get into heaven until someone in heaven decides that they have had enough and leaves or until the bouncers start throwing people out and making room for others.

I have always been annoyed by that song because of its logic that a flag decal is totally sufficient for admission to heaven, but that heaven is just overcrowded and no longer accepting applications. But the more logical lyrics probably wouldn't have sounded as good put to music. "Well your flag decal never would have gotten you into heaven in the first place / Regardless of whether the government you support engaged in moral or immoral actions on the international stage" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
posted by The World Famous at 1:59 PM on October 7, 2009


Would you care to explain why it's hard to "get [your] head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion?"


It's a bit like Col. Sanders holding a diet book. Something of an internal contradiction.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:01 PM on October 7, 2009


Would you care to explain why it's hard to "get [your] head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion?"

All you heathens out there, worshiping the wrong gods? My god* LET you do that, when he wrote the constitution! That's how awesome my god is.

* Disclaimer: My god did not actually pen the constitution. Trust me, you should be glad.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2009


It's a bit like Col. Sanders holding a diet book. Something of an internal contradiction.

I was asking for an explanation of why people seem to think it is an internal contradiction. Since one of the central founding tenets of Mormonism is freedom of religion (phrased in the Articles of Faith of the Mormon church as the freedom of all people to "worship how, where, or what they may"). While I recognize that a significant part of Mormon history is at odds with the principle of separation of church and state, I don't understand where people are coming from when they say that there's an internal contradiction in Jesus holding a document that contains the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise clause.

Why do you think Jesus holding the Constitution is an internal contradiction?
posted by The World Famous at 2:10 PM on October 7, 2009


The World Famous: Why do you think Jesus holding the Constitution is an internal contradiction?

It's not so much that he's holding it like 'Hey guys look what I found isn't it nifty' it's that he's holding it like 'This is My Word and you should associate it with me and me with it.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not so much that he's holding it like 'Hey guys look what I found isn't it nifty' it's that he's holding it like 'This is My Word and you should associate it with me and me with it.'

Yeah, I get that. Why do you think it's an internal contradiction?
posted by The World Famous at 2:17 PM on October 7, 2009


I was asking for an explanation of why people seem to think it is an internal contradiction.

Well, it's a religious figure holding a document that says no religion necessary.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2009


Yeah, I get that. Why do you think it's an internal contradiction?

It's sort of like if one were to depict George Washington riding a dinosaur.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:19 PM on October 7, 2009


Well, it's a religious figure holding a document that says no religion necessary.

???
posted by The World Famous at 2:19 PM on October 7, 2009


Why do you think it's an internal contradiction?

Because Jesus did not endorse any government or form of government and the constitution does not endorse or enshrine any religion.

It's not that it's a contradiction so much, it's that they don't really go together. Like ice cream and ketchup.
posted by device55 at 2:29 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay so here you go: The contradiction is: If we are supposed to associate the Constitution necessarily with Jesus and vice-versa, then that means we are required to associate with Jesus the idea that we have no religious requirements placed upon us. If we wish to believe firmly in our right to have no religious ideas imposed upon us by our government, we must recognize that it is because of Jesus, which is a religious idea.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Seen it? Jon McNaughton's 'One Nation Under God'. The power and symbolism is stark... overwhelmingly the message in this vision is to create a link, bond, a trust between Jesus and the Constitution of the United States. Do you see it? The ambiance is that of a 'dark hour' in DC, the only light source in the vista is radiating from Christ, yet golden glow does flicker in the Court and the House. You can go to the artist's site and do a mouse roll over of all the archetypes in the painting. But it has crashed. Too many are up to it!

Art is very powerful evocotuer [sic] ! (some made up Frances' [sic] for ya!) It promotes images as connective relationships, unfiltered, unique and readily recalled in the minds' eye. I admire his visionary skill, because I encourage it consistently in my professional life, VISUALIZE! Liberals, in this depiction, are clearly the spawn of Satan. Clearly, loudly, this is a portrait of ... We are GOOD. We are RIGHT. The Justice in tears beside the only true glimmer of the Goddess beside him...mocking him? Yet, she represents the only archetype of the unknown future within her belly. I did find that a liberal success in a landscape of such condemnation.” *
posted by ericb at 2:42 PM on October 7, 2009


Jesus is already King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He himself differentiated between "caesar" and "God" already. It is an insult to His Glory to pin him down to an American political document.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:43 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not so much that he's holding it like 'Hey guys look what I found isn't it nifty' it's that he's holding it like 'This is My Word and you should associate it with me and me with it.'

> Yeah, I get that. Why do you think it's an internal contradiction?


I'd go with: because the Constitution is a document written by man, not the Almighty (or silmulacrum thereof, ex: Jesus).

Or because one need not believe in or worship any deity at all to reap the full fruits of the rights and liberties enshrined in it.

Or because the combined images of Jesus, the Constitution, soldiers, right-wing saints, and stand-ins for "real" Americans tend to spell out pretty loudly "America = Christianity = Jesus, so suck it haters!"

Or, all three.
posted by contessa at 2:47 PM on October 7, 2009


It's not that it's a contradiction so much, it's that they don't really go together. Like ice cream and ketchup.

But, that's what some people say about salt on ice cream. Others, like Granpa Gene, think they are just fine together.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on October 7, 2009


Jesus is already King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But, he a'int President of Presidents. AMIRITE?
posted by ericb at 2:56 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Many of us heathens value the protection from religion in that document. So to have it portrayed as emanating from a religious figure is amusing.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:07 PM on October 7, 2009


because the Constitution is a document written by man

Ironically, not unlike the Bible!
posted by dersins at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend and I are both half white and half asian. Now that I've read through this thread I'm driving myself crazy trying to figure out which one of us is the racist, and whether we're racist for being attracted to and subsequently dating the white or non-white halves of each other.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 3:16 PM on October 7, 2009


But, he a'int President of Presidents. AMIRITE?

Well, uh, wouldn't that be....well, you?
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:16 PM on October 7, 2009


Oops. Wrong thread.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 3:17 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, uh, wouldn't that be....well, you?

Bingo!
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on October 7, 2009


But, that's what some people say about salt on ice cream. Others, like Granpa Gene, think they are just fine together.

GRANPA GENE IS DEAD AND HE'S NOT COMING BACK

(but salt does go with everything. Not true of ketchup. Or catsup.)
posted by device55 at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, believe what you want, okay? Seriously. I'm not here to convert you or anything - you can still believe in...what do you worship, a golden calf? Righteous! You can still worship that calf. Seriously, man, sit. We're just gonna rap for a bit about my dad. Now by the end of it, you may decide that you don't want to worship that damn calf anymore - what's it ever done for you, right? - but that's not the point. I just want to help you make an informed choice. In fact, I represent informed freedom, man. Do what you want! I want you to want to worship me and Dad, but I'm not going to make you do it or anything. And if you decide you don't want to, even though there really isn't any other true god out there and everybody else is just lying to you - hello, living proof, here - we're still down with that, okay? You're totally free to do whatever you want, and I support that. Cool? Cool!

Okay - now pay attention here, this is important - one catch. If after hearing me tell you about dad, you deny my holiness and reject my dad, he's gonna torture the living shit out of your goddamn soul in a lake of fire FOR-fucking-EVER. Okay? No, not now, man: after you die. FOREVER. That's right. FUCKING ETERNITY ON FIRE. So just keep that in mind, okay - no pressure. You're still free to choose to worship one of those other fake gods out there that people are lying to you about - and I'm still all about that freedom, man, because I'm the one true savior and I love you. All about it. I just want to help you make an informed choice, okay?
posted by zylocomotion at 3:24 PM on October 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


Jesus is already King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He himself differentiated between "caesar" and "God" already. It is an insult to His Glory to pin him down to an American political document.

Romans 13 seems to imply that all governments are ordained by God.
posted by empath at 3:25 PM on October 7, 2009


Jesus is already King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He himself differentiated between "caesar" and "God" already. It is an insult to His Glory to pin him down to an American political document.

Romans 13 seems to imply that all governments are ordained by God.
posted by empath at 3:25 PM on October 7 [+] [!]


Well, civil authority is indeed ordained by God, but I'm pretty sure He's not thrilled with the civic flagwrapped flavor of "religion" one sees here in the US of A. I'd call it idolatry.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:31 PM on October 7, 2009


*civil authority in general* just to be clear.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:32 PM on October 7, 2009


Why do you think it's an internal contradiction?
Here you go
posted by Flunkie at 3:35 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


flunkie -- that kinda response is just about as dumb and thoughtless as this painting is.
posted by empath at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2009


Q.: So, it turns out your flag decal can get you into Heaven, after all?

A.: I have always been annoyed by that song because of its logic that a flag decal is totally sufficient for admission to heaven, but that heaven is just overcrowded and no longer accepting applications.

Why do you hate America?
posted by Forrest Greene at 3:56 PM on October 7, 2009


flunkie -- that kinda response is just about as dumb and thoughtless as this painting is.
Really? Why?

The Christian god is on record directly ordering us not to worship any gods before him. You're saying that's not contradictory with freedom of religion?
posted by Flunkie at 3:59 PM on October 7, 2009


The Christian god is on record directly ordering us not to worship any gods before him. You're saying that's not contradictory with freedom of religion?

It's not at all contradictory with the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

It is ironic that the same Christians that advocate for policies that violate those clauses also hold up the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document, though.
posted by The World Famous at 4:07 PM on October 7, 2009


The Christian god is on record directly ordering us not to worship any gods before him.

That's got nothing to do with the government enforcing said worship.
posted by empath at 4:08 PM on October 7, 2009


Well, civil authority is indeed ordained by God, but I'm pretty sure He's not thrilled with the civic flagwrapped flavor of "religion" one sees here in the US of A. I'd call it idolatry.

You do know you're preaching to the choir stating that in here, yes?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:13 PM on October 7, 2009


That's got nothing to do with the government enforcing said worship.
Perhaps I misunderstood the original question. Perhaps it's because I'm dumb and thoughtless.

As I understood it, a poster said that they were having a hard time with the idea of a document guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion - the right to worship as you want, or to not worship at all - being inspired by a particular god. Then another poster asked why the original person thought that that was contradictory.

Again, it's probably because I'm dumb and thoughtless, but it seems to me that if somebody says that you must worship him, that's at least somewhat conflicting with that same somebody supposedly inspiring a document protecting the right not to do so.
posted by Flunkie at 4:17 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I understood it, a poster said that they were having a hard time with the idea of a document guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion - the right to worship as you want, or to not worship at all - being inspired by a particular god. Then another poster asked why the original person thought that that was contradictory.

A poster said "I'm still trying to get my head around Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion."

I asked why that's hard to get one's head around, in light of the fact that the specific religion of the guy who painted this painting has as one of its central tenets that everyone should be free to worship as they wish.
posted by The World Famous at 4:22 PM on October 7, 2009


And I don't understand why "because the same god specifically said that you must worship him" is not a valid answer. That Mormonism seemingly has internal contradictions doesn't seem to me to be a good defense to the charge that there seems to be an internal contradiction.

And besides, I think you might be forgetting what you originally asked. You didn't ask in light of the fact that the guy's Mormon; you asked about Christianity in general, and Mormonism parenthetically as an "and/or".

Seriously, neither of you see any hint of conflict between the two ideas that:

(1) This god directly ordered people to worship him, and

(2) This god is a stalwart defender of your right not to worship him?

None? Not at all? So little that it's dumb and thoughtless to think that there might be a hint of conflict between the two?
posted by Flunkie at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I don't understand why "because the same god specifically said that you must worship him" is not a valid answer.

Because he did not say that the United States government should enforce that commandment (as far as I know).

Seriously, neither of you see any hint of conflict between the two ideas that:

(1) This god directly ordered people to worship him, and

(2) This god is a stalwart defender of your right not to worship him?


If #1 was rephrased to say "This god directly ordered the government to force people to worship him," you would have a point.

None? Not at all? So little that it's dumb and thoughtless to think that there might be a hint of conflict between the two?

I don't think it's dumb or thoughtless. I do think that anyone who can't wrap their head around the belief that God doesn't want the government to persecute people based on religious beliefs is probably not trying very hard.
posted by The World Famous at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2009


Because he did not say that the United States government should enforce that commandment (as far as I know).
Here you are imposing your personal interpretation of the original poster's question.
I don't think it's dumb or thoughtless.
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you do. I was referring to empath on that particular point.
posted by Flunkie at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2009


(1) This god directly ordered people to worship him, and

(2) This god is a stalwart defender of your right not to worship him?

None? Not at all? So little that it's dumb and thoughtless to think that there might be a hint of conflict between the two?


I wouldn't say that either the New Testament or Old Testament is at all consistent in this, but there is a great deal of support in the Epistles and the Gospels for the Roman Empire as it was constituted at the time, which was a purely pagan state.

To grab one line from the Old Testament without any context and pretend that's an argument is fairly thoughtless, yes.
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2009


Here you are imposing your personal interpretation of the original poster's question.

Unless I misunderstand what you're saying here, I was the original poster who asked the question.

"Worship me, but not because you're forced to by the government" is not internally contradictory.
posted by The World Famous at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say that either the New Testament or Old Testament is at all consistent in this, but there is a great deal of support in the Epistles and the Gospels for the Roman Empire as it was constituted at the time, which was a purely pagan state.
And again, that there are seeming contradictions within a religion does not seem like a good defense for the charge that there seem to be contradictions.
To grab one line from the Old Testament without any context and pretend that's an argument is fairly thoughtless, yes.
OK. Goodbye.
posted by Flunkie at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2009


Unless I misunderstand what you're saying here, I was the original poster who asked the question.
Yes, you are misunderstanding me here, but it's my fault. I shouldn't have said "original poster who asked the question", because the person I was referring to didn't phrase his or her statement as a question. I was referring to the person who said they were having a hard time with this; the person that you questioned. Sorry.
posted by Flunkie at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2009


No worries. That's why I phrased it like that - I wasn't sure exactly what you meant.
posted by The World Famous at 4:48 PM on October 7, 2009


"Worship me, but not because you're forced to by the government" is not internally contradictory.
And again, that's your interpretation of the problem that the person brought up.

I believe that the person was probably having a problem with the contradictory claims that I listed: "You must worship me" and "I defend your right not to worship me". That you can phrase it in another way which leads to a lack of specific contradiction doesn't mean that's the issue that the person you responded to was struggling with.
posted by Flunkie at 4:48 PM on October 7, 2009


Plus Matthew 6 seems to be pretty strongly against any sort of public demonstration of prayer or religion of any kind. So yes, I don't that it's all inconsistent to say that Jesus (or Paul or whoever authored the gospels) would support the separation of Church and state -- in fact it's almost assured that they'd have to because they lived in an empire where the official religion was not their own, and it would have been inconceivable that it could have become the state religion.
posted by empath at 4:51 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guys, remember that we're not debating whether the ideals expressed in the US Constitution and ideals expressed in Christianity are contradictory. Clearly there's a great deal of overlap. Christianity has been sorta influential.

What's contradictory is the painting which depicts the son of god delivering a wholly secular statement of government powers and limitations to his followers.

The depiction in the painting requires you to ignore both the content of the bible and the content of the US constitution if you are to take it seriously.

Jesus wasn't a lobbyist and the Constitution isn't a prayer book.
posted by device55 at 5:04 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Worship me, but not because you're forced to by the government" is not internally contradictory.
And again, that's your interpretation of the problem that the person brought up.


Unless I'm missing something, the only problem that the person brought up was the inability to - in any way whatsoever - wrap their head around the idea of "Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion." I can only assume that this statement came from a viewpoint that includes the opinion that Jesus is not cool with freedom of religion. I'm not saying I don't see irony in the way that certain people who believe in Jesus attempting to impose their beliefs on others. But the idea that someone could be incapable of comprehending an interpretation of scripture that concludes that Jesus supports freedom of religion is bizarre to me.

As much as I don't like the painting and as much as I recognize the silliness of most of the assertions made by the artist, I don't understand how it can be at all difficult for someone to wrap their head around the concept that Jesus doesn't want the government to establish or interfere with religious worship. Again, I certainly see the irony in that image being embraced by people who do not seem by their actions to share that belief.

The depiction in the painting requires you to ignore both the content of the bible and the content of the US constitution if you are to take it seriously.

Care to cite some of the content of those two documents that you think have to be ignored?
posted by The World Famous at 5:09 PM on October 7, 2009


As a secular humanist who likes to think that Christians can also be decent, tolerant, patriotic and liberal-minded Americans, I'm wary of the concept that Christianity is incompatible with a free, pluralistic society, which is why I tend to argue with anyone pushing the idea that Jesus must be against the separation of Church and State. Just be aware that when you push that line, you're agreeing with folks like Pat Robertson and James Dobson and Glenn Beck.
posted by empath at 5:14 PM on October 7, 2009


I just want to help you make an informed choice. In fact, I represent informed freedom, man. Do what you want! I want you to want to worship me and Dad...I'm the one true savior and I love you. All about it. I just want to help you make an informed choice, okay?

Okay. You accept donations, right? To whom and where do I send my monthly check/tithe?
posted by ericb at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2009


Care to cite some of the content of those two documents that you think have to be ignored?

It's already been covered up thread how not-religious the US constitution is.

When did Jesus discuss government policy regarding the enshrinement of a faith in government or the lack thereof? Or any government policy for that matter.

It's just not a topic I remember from Sunday school. I do remember "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" - but I also remember Jesus dusting off some sandals, not throwing some stones, and telling people to give up all their worldly possessions and follow him.

Jesus didn't have anything to say about how to run a government. So it's weird to see a picture of Jesus endorsing a secular government mission statement.

The discussion of whether Jesus would be for or against freedom of religion is not really the question that was asked. The cognitive dissonance comes from the fact that the two things - Jesus and the US Constitution - don't really have much to do with one another.
posted by device55 at 5:30 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


GRANPA GENE IS DEAD AND HE'S NOT COMING BACK

Are we so sure. Even though, Daddy Don Draper told her otherwise, Sally may still believe that Baby Gene is still Grandpa Gene reincarnated.
posted by ericb at 5:34 PM on October 7, 2009


What's contradictory is the painting which depicts the son of god delivering a wholly secular statement of government powers and limitations to his followers.

I honestly don't believe that it's contradictory at all. The bible flat out says that the earthly powers were given dominion by god. The New Testament at least makes some fairly clear seperation of powers-like statements -- 'render unto Caesar', etc -- and when it does talk about government enforcement of religious laws, it's fairly VIOLENTLY against it -- for example:

Acts 18:One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

12While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 13"This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."

14Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things." 16So he had them ejected from the court. 17Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.


Now the dumb-ass that made this painting clearly is confused about the contents of both the Bible and the Constitution, but I don't think there's any reason in the Bible itself why the Constitution -- even understood properly -- COULDN'T be a divinely inspired document. Assuming you believe in that sort of thing.
posted by empath at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2009


empath, thanks for the references. I am not religious, nor do I have more than a passing familiarity with the bible - so this is instructive.

I still think it "weird" for lack of a better term to see Jesus endorsing the constitution...I get what you're saying about the "character" of the document. The concepts of equality and justice under the law could be seen as "in the image of god" - but this:

The bible flat out says that the earthly powers were given dominion by god

This reminds me of the divine right of kings - which American political philosophy does not hold to be true - power is held by the people and granted to representatives of those people through balanced, fair means (elections, appointments made by elected officials, etc).

I think that might be where it gets off the rails for me.

If you were a religious person you might argue that a person who becomes a respected senator or some such must have been given the gift of leadership by god - but even that I see as a different thing. (I may squander my gifts, for example)

To me - I can't speak for others - the flavors just don't mesh well. Like ketchup and ice cream.

(with democracy sprinkles)
posted by device55 at 5:54 PM on October 7, 2009


Are we so sure

Don and Gene didn't get along because they were too much alike. They both have secrets.
posted by device55 at 5:57 PM on October 7, 2009


This reminds me of the divine right of kings

Right, and that was part of the basis for the Divine Right of Kings, but The King can be seen as merely a stand-in for The State, however it's constituted. Or looked at another way-- one could see The Constitution itself as the earthly power, since it's the foundation of the government.

I actually think the Bible is a load of bull for the most part (I pretty much am on board with the Thomas Paine quotes above), but it's an endlessly adaptable load of bull.

Keep in mind that Christianity as a philosophy and a religion and an organization evolves and adapts to the social environment that it inhabits, and it originally evolved within a large, multi-ethnic, pluralistic, transnational empire and largely marketed itself to minorities, the poor, the oppressed and the outcast within that empire. It only later became the state religion, with all the power politics, intolerance and homogeneity that entails. Anytime you go back to the scriptures, though, you'll always find plenty of justification for a liberal, tolerant religion that avoids involvement in politics.

I think the problem that the 5000 Year Leap guys run into is that they think -- Okay, God inspired the Constitution, therefore, God wanted the Government to be under Biblical Law, which IS contradictory, with both the Bible and the Constitution. Half of the stories in the Gospels and Acts are stories of Jesus and the Apostles breaking Old Testament laws (which were not just 'commandments', but literal laws that one could be punished - even executed - for breaking) and calling for them to be replaced with common sense rules -- just one example:

1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.
3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
6 And they could not answer him again to these things.


And of course the "he who is without sin cast the first stone" story -- those are all explicit rejections of enforcing biblical law with temporal power. The major theme of Christianity is that people will get their reward or punishment in the afterlife and that the material world is meaningless.

Again, obvious that Glenn Beck and the others want to project their own prejudices into the BIblie, but it is quite possible to be Christian, to even believe that the US government is the instrument of God's Will on Earth, and still not believe that means that US must be a "Christian Nation" under biblical law.

I just wish the mainstream Christian denominations in the US would be more vocal about this and not let the yahoos on Fox News speak for them.
posted by empath at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2009


I think the problem that the 5000 Year Leap guys run into is that they think -- Okay, God inspired the Constitution, therefore, God wanted the Government to be under Biblical Law, which IS contradictory, with both the Bible and the Constitution.

Exactly.
posted by The World Famous at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the things I find most odd about McNaughton's painting is that Jesus is holding up the Consitution specifically. In a work that's ostensibly all about emotion, why go with the Constitution? It's about the driest bit of legalism in our political history. "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives! Praise the Lord!"

It would have made much more sense if he were holding up the Declaration of Independence, which is an altogether more passionate work and one that makes direct connections between human rights and divine law. But then I guess you'd have to have a working knowledge of both documents and their historical context, something that McNaughton appears to lack.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


why go with the Constitution?

White Horse Prophecy.
posted by empath at 9:27 PM on October 7, 2009


I love how Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't get to stand in for himself, but instead gets the homage of having a soldier in body armor represent him. Because MLK is cool with being interchangeable like that.

Especially since king was a huge pacifist who opposed the Vietnam war.
posted by delmoi at 11:41 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't find the joker, on the sidelines, in a cast.
posted by britain at 4:15 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't help but notice that Satan appears to be Prince Nuada. Explains a lot.
posted by Ruby Stevens at 4:36 AM on October 8, 2009


I think the basic disconnect in the discussion of Jesus holding the Constitution is whether you view the religious clause as primarily about:

1. protecting individual consciences and the right to make your own decisions about religion

or

2. recognizing that religion is much too important to give the government any control over it

#1 might seem a little weird coming from Jesus, but #2 could almost be a quote from the gospels.
posted by straight at 7:55 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


#1 might seem a little weird coming from Jesus

I don't understand this. What is it that has given people a view of Jesus as a coercive figure? Sure, the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians are coercive and advocate for coercive policy. But Jesus? Really? I'm just not seeing it, and I think it's probably a question of upbringing, perspective, or something like that.
posted by The World Famous at 8:41 AM on October 8, 2009


The World Famous, I think you're really overthinking this plate of beans.

Jesus holding up the Constitution is weird because Jesus didn't write it and Jesus didn't say it. It's like Jesus holding up a copy of Harry Potter or the Treaty of Westphalia.

Jesus holding up the Constitution is weird because many of the men who did participate in the drafting of the Constitution did not think highly of Jesus or Christianity.

Jesus holding up the Constitution is weird because in the context of the painting it strongly appears to be a claim that that US is explicitly Christian in some way, even when the amended document Jesus is holding up says it isn't.

Jesus holding up the Constitution is weird because even though it's of course possible to imagine or believe in a Jesus that supports freedom of religion, the sorts of people who create paintings like this or purchase pictures like this are exceedingly unlikely to believe that, so it is weird to see people who an objective observer would think are very unlikely to support freedom of religion when push comes to shove create a painting where their Jesus is holding up a document that enshrines that very principle.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus holding up the Constitution is weird because even though it's of course possible to imagine or believe in a Jesus that supports freedom of religion, the sorts of people who create paintings like this or purchase pictures like this are exceedingly unlikely to believe that

But the "sort of person" who painted this picture apparently belongs to a religion that expressly believes in freedom of religion as one of its central tenets, which it contends came straight from Jesus.
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on October 8, 2009


The Civil War soldier holds his hands in front of his face to symbolize that this was the only war where American fought against American

Actually, the American Revolution was partially a civil war between Patriots and Loyalists, who made up 15-20% of the white population of the colonies. About 50,000 fought for the British over the course of the war. The confusingly-named British Legion, made up of Loyalist infantry and cavalry, killed surrendering Continentals at the Battle of Waxhaws. Loyalists made up about half of Cornwallis' force at the Battle of Camden. His victory gave the British control of the Carolinas until Patriots defeated a Loyalist force at the Battle of Kings Mountain, which Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson called the turning point of the revolution.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2009


But the "sort of person" who painted this picture apparently belongs to a religion that expressly believes in freedom of religion as one of its central tenets, which it contends came straight from Jesus.

Judging by the alt text for the immigrant, the person who painted this picture actually believes in freedom of religion as long as we understand that JESUS IS LORD.
posted by dersins at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the "sort of person" who painted this picture apparently belongs to a religion that expressly believes in freedom of religion as one of its central tenets, which it contends came straight from Jesus.

This only makes sense if you believe that always and without fail, every single Mormon on the planet really does believe every single belief that is contained in Mormon orthodoxy, without the slightest flagging and with their whole heart.

Or, you could acknowledge that just as there are Catholics who use birth control even though the Pope has commanded them not to and are Jews who do not obey every single commandment found in Torah, there can be Mormons whose only conduct we can see gives us no reason whatsoever to believe that they have any real commitment to religious freedom, even though there is something written somewhere in a Mormon text that says that he should.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:12 PM on October 8, 2009


This only makes sense if you believe that always and without fail, every single Mormon on the planet really does believe every single belief that is contained in Mormon orthodoxy, without the slightest flagging and with their whole heart.

No. It makes sense if you believe that freedom of religion is one of the central foundational tenets of the religion - which it is. I am assuming that the artist who painted the picture of Jesus holding the Constitution believes in the central tenet of his religion that is consistent with that depiction. I don't think that assumption is particularly far-fetched. I also don't think it's particularly far-fetched to assume that virtually every Mormon on the planet at the very least claims to believe every single one of the thirteen Articles of Faith of the religion, among which is freedom of religion.

Or, you could acknowledge that just as there are Catholics who use birth control even though the Pope has commanded them not to and are Jews who do not obey every single commandment found in Torah, there can be Mormons whose only conduct we can see gives us no reason whatsoever to believe that they have any real commitment to religious freedom, even though there is something written somewhere in a Mormon text that says that he should.

First, it would be ridiculous to say that it's hard to wrap one's head around the idea of a Catholic who actually does not use birth control, just as it is ridiculous to say that it's hard to wrap one's head around the idea that a Mormon believes that Jesus endorses freedom of religion.

Second, belief in freedom of religion is not "something written somewhere in a Mormon text." It's one of the foundational and central tenets of the religion. While there are, no doubt, Mormons who don't think very much about that fact or whose actions are inconsistent with it, it's not some minor think hidden off in an obscure corner of the canon.

The Articles of Faith of the Mormon Church is a concise, 13-point statement of the central tenets of the religion, written by Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion. Given the content of Articles 11 and 12, it should not be at all difficult to "get one's head around" the idea that a Mormon would depict "Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion."
posted by The World Famous at 12:41 PM on October 8, 2009


The World Famous, I think you're making this way more complicated than it needs to be. The painting isn't called "What Mormons Believe," it's called "One Nation Under God."

It's a painting of Jesus holding the Constitution, surrounded by several of the framers of the document who would, quite frankly, be gobsmacked at the very idea that this same phrase, "one nation under God" has been inserted into an oath to our country.

It's as simple as that. And that is the problem.
posted by contessa at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2009


I think you're making this way more complicated than it needs to be. The painting isn't called "What Mormons Believe," it's called "One Nation Under God."

It's not complicated at all:
Question: "How can I wrap my head around the idea that someone would paint a picture of Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion?"

Answer: "The painter is Mormon. Freedom of religion is one of the central tenets of the religion, which they claim were handed down directly from Jesus."

Head wrapped now?
posted by The World Famous at 2:02 PM on October 8, 2009


It makes sense if you believe that freedom of religion is one of the central foundational tenets of the religion - which it is.

And yet the authority of the Pope is a central, foundational tenet of Roman Catholicism, but you can find many Catholics who do what he says not to or who don't believe everything he says to. How weird is that?

it is ridiculous to say that it's hard to wrap one's head around the idea that a Mormon believes that Jesus endorses freedom of religion

It's not hard at all to wrap my head around the idea that a Mormon, or many Mormons, believe that.

I simply don't see any reason to think that this particular Mormon does so.

In fact, there's very good evidenced that this particular Mormon does not support freedom of religion or the separation of church and state. The painting includes the dreaded Supreme Court Justice and several horrible, terrible rulings that made baby Jesus cry. Among these are Everson vs Board of Education, a case that's related to church and state in the school setting and that he asserts started the trend towards getting God out of the public-school classroom.*

In other words, he is upset because schools cannot legally force students to pray. He says so simply and distinctly: "It was the beginning of the removal of prayer from school and God from America."

So, yes, it is funny or weird or ironic that this schmuck painted Jesus holding a document whose clear and obvious interpretations he is angry about. That he is a member of a religion that tells him that he should support something he doesn't in fact support doesn't make that any less funny or weird or ironic.

*I'm not sure why he has that instead of Engel v Vitale, but whatever; it's his febrile fantasies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yet the authority of the Pope is a central, foundational tenet of Roman Catholicism, but you can find many Catholics who do what he says not to or who don't believe everything he says to. How weird is that?

Yep. Mormonism and Catholicism have some significant differences. But I don't think you would say you can't wrap your head around the idea that a Catholic would create a painting of the Pope, would you?

it is ridiculous to say that it's hard to wrap one's head around the idea that a Mormon believes that Jesus endorses freedom of religion

It's not hard at all to wrap my head around the idea that a Mormon, or many Mormons, believe that.

I simply don't see any reason to think that this particular Mormon does so.


Except that he painted a painting of Jesus holding a document that guarantees freedom of religion. I mean, I think the fact that he painted and is selling a painting depicting the belief is at least some reason to believe that he believes it. Or did you not see the painting?

I think there's ample evidence that the painter interprets the Constitution differently than you do. I think there's ample evidence that the painter interprets the Constitution differently than I do, as well. Personally, I think that the painting evidences some internal inconsistency in his own understanding or interpretation of Mormon doctrines.

I think it would be fair to say something like "if Jesus endorses the Constitution, then why doesn't the whole painting endorse the Constitution?" I also think it would be fair to say that the painter doesn't understand what the First Amendment really means. But I think it's ridiculous to posit that there is no reason to think that the painter believes in freedom of religion.
posted by The World Famous at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2009


For those saying it isn't contradictory to have Jesus presenting the constitution, isn't it central to our government that it is "of the people, by the people and for the people"? For God to give us a document that begins "We the people..." seems a bit out of place.

The whole point is that we're establishing an imperfect but workable series of checks and balances that will help us all get along better, not imagining that we're going to create paradise on earth.
posted by mdn at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2009


But I think it's ridiculous to posit that there is no reason to think that the painter believes in freedom of religion.

And I think it's equally ridiculus to posit that the central theme of this painting is freedom of religion, when it's quite clearly the opposite.
posted by contessa at 2:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I think it's equally ridiculus to posit that the central theme of this painting is freedom of religion, when it's quite clearly the opposite.

Did someone posit that? Because I agree with you.

The whole point is that we're establishing an imperfect but workable series of checks and balances that will help us all get along better, not imagining that we're going to create paradise on earth.

Some people believe that God inspired the Framers to create an imperfect but workable series of checks and balances that will help us all get along better. And some of those people believe that God did so notwithstanding the fact that most of the Framers did not seek or acknowledge such inspiration. I'm not sure whether John McNaughton is one of those people.
posted by The World Famous at 2:49 PM on October 8, 2009


To treat this facile painting with rather more dignity and consideration than it deserves, the idea of Jesus presenting the Constitution is not contradictory, especially given the history of religion and state contemporary with the document's writing.

That the first amendment guarantees freedom of religion is true, but recognize that this comes in form at least partly from works like John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration, one of the first treatises to make an explicit call for religious tolerance. This was meant to be, broadly, an extension of Protestant theology regarding freedom of conscience and worship; while Locke has been called an atheist elsewhere, his writings generally assume a God and argue after that assumption that the means of worship should be left to individuals.

Even further, the Bill of Rights is tied to Locke and religion (a connection more explicit in the Declaration, but still present), in that rights are seen as inalienable and natural. Natural Rights are rights provided and vouchsafed by God, and Locke derives (in the Second Treatise) "life, liberty and property" all from the presumption of a benevolent creator. That's actually one of the more difficult problems regarding current rights theory in America, that our philosophical and legal interpretations of the underpinnings of rights have somewhat diverged, and a lot of assumptions about rights that are held popularly are more difficult (but not impossible) to support in an atheist context.

There was also the popular conception of America as a new Eden, something that gave rise to many New England pocket religions, as well as provided philosophical underpinning for arguments such as Manifest Destiny. (As a complete tangent, City of Glass by Paul Auster is a detective novel that obliquely attacks a lot of those ideas through a fictional corresponding narrative, and is awesome to boot.) But the idea of an explicitly Christian America, now antithetical to nearly anyone who understands the shortcomings of early America, was assumed and used to justify things like the slaughter of Native Americans by US troops; one of Jackson's justifications for the Trail of Tears was that these people being removed were not Christian, therefore not American.

Early American relationship between church and state is a lot more complicated than most folks realize, and there is a tendency on both sides to present the issue with the assumption that the founding fathers agreed with them. But beyond Mormon ideology, of which I know only a little, there are more than a few interpretations of Jesus holding or endorsing the Constitution that are congruent with what we know about how the founders thought about their society. I would hasten to add that in many ways, I think that the founding fathers were insufficient in following their premises to the necessary conclusions, and that them being of their time does not mean they were right—the Constitution should be interpreted now as a wholly secular document, but it was not always and not necessarily incorrectly.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well said.

Also:

There was also the popular conception of America as a new Eden, something that gave rise to many New England pocket religions, as well as provided philosophical underpinning for arguments such as Manifest Destiny.

That sounds a little like a religion I'm familiar with. Hmm . . .
posted by The World Famous at 3:37 PM on October 8, 2009


If you're going to suggest Jesus would support the constitution because freedom of religion is important - we have to choose to follow him of our own volition - then it seems that in order for the constitution to be meaningful, we have to create it of our own volition. If "we the people" is going to mean something, it can't be actually pushed through by "he the deity."

Jesus can support the idea of the constitution, or be fine with it, or 'render unto caesar', without directly intervening to cause it to happen. (Unless you're some kind of Calvinist or something, but it's no use trying to work out the logic there...) Basically, if you have a standard free will style belief in freedom of religion, that includes freedom of all beliefs, which means the secular beliefs of the nation have to be worked out among men, not handed down by gods.

The constitution is exactly that compromise of all those men with different secular and religious beliefs figuring out the best way to handle their differences while sharing a country. To depict it as handed down by Jesus is as off-base as having it handed down by Vishnu. It completely misses the point.
posted by mdn at 3:48 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The dark side revision: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:04 PM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


"If you're going to suggest Jesus would support the constitution because freedom of religion is important - we have to choose to follow him of our own volition - then it seems that in order for the constitution to be meaningful, we have to create it of our own volition. If "we the people" is going to mean something, it can't be actually pushed through by "he the deity."

That's not really what I'm talking about. I'm not all that expert on theology outside of a few classics, and again, I'm not really making the argument that Jesus would support the Constitution (especially not on the simple grounds of the first amendment), but you're kind of making an anachronistic argument here. The idea was not that Jesus would support the Constitution, though that's implicit, but rather that the Constitution was the reification of American political thought, and that was what Jesus implicitly endorses. The Constitution would be symbolic of Augustine's City of God being consecrated coexisting with the City of Man; you see a lot of similar rhetoric in America being the City on the Hill.

Further, with the idea of free will being presupposed, Jesus supporting something doesn't mean that it's not human works or that it's "pushed through by He the diety." It would be reframed as humans choosing to act in the manner prescribed by Jesus and thus creating this Constitution. Your argument strikes on the more foundational problem with omniscience/omnipotence regarding free will, but as that's generally reconciled (to what degree successfully is left up to the critic) within Christian theology, it wouldn't be seen as contradictory there.

I'm not familiar with Hindu theology, but I feel like it's you who's missing the point—It's not being handed down by Jesus, it's being handed up by Americans. Or better yet, realized.
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2009


It's not being handed down by Jesus, it's being handed up by Americans. Or better yet, realized.

Fine. But in the picture it is being handed down by Jesus, isn't it? If Jesus were accepting it from the people that'd be different, though even so what does it have to do with Jesus in particular... If it is the same powerful document for people of all faiths, and of none, then it is inspired by any and all forms of inspiration, not just Jesus. Jesus could accept it from us, or approve of it along with Mohammed and Moses and Krsna and Matraiya and Santa, but for him to hand it to us as the lone authority exaggerates the influence theological thought had on the framers.

Further, with the idea of free will being presupposed, Jesus supporting something doesn't mean that it's not human works or that it's "pushed through by He the diety." It would be reframed as humans choosing to act in the manner prescribed by Jesus... that's generally reconciled (to what degree successfully is left up to the critic) within Christian theology...

well, I said "unless you're a calvinist", which no, I don't think is really reconciled, but anyway. But if you're a calvinist, then certainly there is nothing important about living in a nation where you freely choose to worship Jesus, because you are going to be fated to make that choice one way or the other anyway, so to speak - you are going to be inspired [or not] by jesus to choose jesus, so whether the state supports it or not hardly makes a difference.
posted by mdn at 6:56 PM on October 8, 2009


But if you're a calvinist, then certainly there is nothing important about living in a nation where you freely choose to worship Jesus, because you are going to be fated to make that choice one way or the other anyway, so to speak - you are going to be inspired [or not] by jesus to choose jesus, so whether the state supports it or not hardly makes a difference.

Unless, of course, you prefer not to be thrown in jail for your religious beliefs. In that case, even if you're a calvinist, it might be important to you that you live in a nation where your choice - fated or not - will not be punished by the government.
posted by The World Famous at 7:44 PM on October 8, 2009


"The Civil War soldier holds his hands in front of his face to symbolize that this was the only war where American fought against American"

Actually, the American Revolution was partially a civil war between Patriots and Loyalists, who made up 15-20% of the white population of the colonies.


Also, the War on Christmas.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:05 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


If the painter needs to be so cheezy and booooring as to include a god-figure, he might as well go whole hog and put all the popular religious figures in the painting. If its really all about freedom of religion, then Jesus will be cool with sharing the spotlight.

Though that doesn't explain the fearful immigrant.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 PM on October 8, 2009


Another revised version.

Hail the Great Old Ones.
posted by pompomtom at 8:59 PM on October 8, 2009


"Fine. But in the picture it is being handed down by Jesus, isn't it? If Jesus were accepting it from the people that'd be different, though even so what does it have to do with Jesus in particular... If it is the same powerful document for people of all faiths, and of none, then it is inspired by any and all forms of inspiration, not just Jesus. Jesus could accept it from us, or approve of it along with Mohammed and Moses and Krsna and Matraiya and Santa, but for him to hand it to us as the lone authority exaggerates the influence theological thought had on the framers."

No.

It is explicitly part of the Western tradition to combine Christian and secular authority. And again, "realized" is a better way of thinking of it. The promise of the Kingdom of God is fulfilled with the people constituting their government in the way prescribed by Jesus by way of Western political thought. That's the message—an endorsement of Manifest Destiny and the City on the Hill. This is not rhetoric that McNaughton originated; like many things in this painting, it's a pastiche of earlier work.

The idea of multiple legitimate faiths was as common as the idea of racial equality at the time of the signing. At the time, the primary impetus of the free exercise clause was the memory of religious persecution of Christians by other Christians; the establishment clause was meant to avoid a national official religion, again linked to persecution of Christians by other Christians (from the Puritans to the Huguenots). Even Locke, who, again, all the framers had read and who was enormously influential, addressed his Letter Concerning Toleration to different Protestant sects, holding that both Catholics and atheists were intolerable threats to civil society. These were the progressive views of the time; arguing that Krishna and Mohammed had any place in the discourse is retconning the framers to abide our liberalism. It's a disservice to them and us to create these myths.

"well, I said "unless you're a calvinist", which no, I don't think is really reconciled, but anyway. But if you're a calvinist, then certainly there is nothing important about living in a nation where you freely choose to worship Jesus, because you are going to be fated to make that choice one way or the other anyway, so to speak - you are going to be inspired [or not] by jesus to choose jesus, so whether the state supports it or not hardly makes a difference."

This is gibberish and beneath you. Within mainline Protestantism, free will had been reconciled with God; the subjectivity implied was a main force behind nearly everything Luther touched upon, from his doctrine of individualized salvation through faith to his insistence on vernacular Bibles. So, within mainline Christianity, this was reconciled; Calvinism was an offshoot.

But even within Calvinism, and this is what makes your objection here ridiculous, it's not like these people were robots. Determinists, atheist determinists, don't stop advocating for more just societies or against their persecution; determinists still use the language of choice even. Further, it's not like the question of free will has been settled for secular philosophers, and yet the framers definitely assumed it. So it doesn't really matter if you think it's been settled as a matter of Christian thought, for the framers it was fairly reconciled.

And this is all rather far afield from the fact that popular rhetoric saw the American republic as a fulfillment of Divine Providence, and Jesus holding (endorsing) the symbolic reification of that American promise makes rhetorical sense.

Let me make this clear again, so that we're not arguing past each other: I disagree with the conceptualization of America as a Christian nation; I think this painting is idiotic. But I recognize the rhetorical tradition that it comes from, and that rhetorical tradition was incredibly influential and important in American history. Dismissing it does a disservice to the founders and to us.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on October 8, 2009


Another revised version.

I love the Lovecraftian riff on this (a lot), but I'm imagining a bunch of irony-impared right-wingers looking at that image and seeing all of their paranoid fantasies come true. Not that I have a problem with that, because you can't sneeze without all of their paranoid fantasies coming true.
posted by brundlefly at 1:25 AM on October 9, 2009


They Live!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:09 AM on October 9, 2009


with the people constituting their government in the way prescribed by Jesus by way of Western political thought...

The idea of multiple legitimate faiths was as common as the idea of racial equality at the time of the signing.


Ok, let's consider that analogy. If this were a painting supporting white supremacy, that would generally be considered to go against the ideals of america, even if the individuals who lived in that time were by default generally racist. The same is true on a religious level - culturally most of the people involved were influenced more by christian thought than any other religion, but that didn't mean christianity was the source of their ideas, the one true inspiration, or even that important to what they were doing. Jesus or Christ is not mentioned in the documents founding the US.

Basically, this is off base even in 1776, and unacceptable in 2009. Yes, the founders were most familiar with christianity, as a social reality. But even given that fact, they were not strongly christian-centric in their philosophical stance:

And despite public opinion about Islam at the time (which differs little from Sale's professed negative statements), Jefferson explicitly referenced Islam in his support of Virginia's Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786, where he praised its protections of "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and the Infidel." Early American writings show Jefferson wasn't alone. "It is clear that the Founding Fathers thought about the relationship of Islam to the new nation," writes James Hutson, Manuscript Division Chief for the Library of Congress, "and were prepared to make a place for it in the republic."

Christianity was the history, the familiarity, but the future was a place for everyone, and that is made clear in the constitution.

Unless, of course, you prefer not to be thrown in jail for your religious beliefs. In that case, even if you're a calvinist, it might be important to you that you live in a nation where your choice - fated or not - will not be punished by the government.

If Jesus is the one founding that gov't that won't punish you, it's pretty bizarre for him to punish you himself when you die. What benefit does he provide you in allowing you to not be christian, if he's only going to send you to hell for it in the end?
posted by mdn at 12:50 PM on October 11, 2009


Basically, this is off base even in 1776, and unacceptable in 2009.

What in the world do you mean by "unacceptable?"
posted by The World Famous at 5:09 PM on October 11, 2009


"McNaughton's response to liberal criticisms of "One Nation Under God"
posted by Rhaomi at 2:02 PM on October 12, 2009


The patriotic heroes who stand behind Christ and the Constitution are pleading with us to defend the cause of liberty. Except for the pregnant woman in the lower left corner, these people symbolize those who have pushed our country towards Socialism.

You painted as patriots those heroes who have pushed America toward Socialism?

Eh? I'm pretty sure I must be misunderstanding.

I believe that I did not evolve from an ape. You may disagree, but that is how I feel.

[rolls eyes] Reality doesn't care how you feel, dude. The mountains of evidence in favour of the theory of evolution can't just be ignored, brushed away because you "feel" you did not evolve from an ape. That is the behaviour of a child.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2009


Er, that was wrt McNaughton's response. D-oh.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2009


"This is not a Republican Painting"

This is not an honest statement.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:46 PM on October 13, 2009


What in the world do you mean by "unacceptable?"

Look, to a christian, it may seem like it is just Jesus supporting freedom, but to a non-christian, it looks like a claim that that freedom is only truly available through christianity. Basically, it is that same sort of blindness that Stephen Colbert parodies when he says things like "America welcomes people of all faiths to worship Jesus in their own way." It discriminates against other religions in the way that it assumes christianity has a special relationship to the ideas of the constitution. And in 2009, it seems like we should be past the idea that christianity has a special relationship to the ideas in our constitution. Those ideas are compatible with any religion, and there are members of any religion who would reject them. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs.

The founders may have been more likely to have christian backgrounds, but that is an accident of geography. They had to have backgrounds of one sort or another, and they were culturally christian, just like they were white and british. But that doesn't mean the constitution is inherently white, british or christian.

Maybe you think this painting doesn't convey a special relationship, but the way the people are all surrounding Jesus, it seems clear to me that he is not just confirming the document, but that he is the authority figure for all citizens. Those like 'the professor' who dismiss him are hanging out with Satan, and those who serve him are at his right hand.

Since the separation of church and state is a central part of the document jesus is holding, it is comes across as fundamentally hypocritical. It's like an ad for Coke that claims something like "you should have the right to drink whatever you want!" - it doesn't really seem like it's about freedom to drink what you want once it's been endorsed by a particular beverage.
posted by mdn at 4:36 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


To a Quaker, the idea of Jesus holding the Constitution is bordering on blasphemous. It's an abhorrent idea to have a Faith involved with a State, cause the only result can be the corruption of both.
posted by The Whelk at 4:40 PM on October 14, 2009


Lots of people have lots of different religious beliefs. Many - or perhaps even all - are erroneous. But to say that it is "unacceptable" for someone to hold a religious belief that you think is incorrect is, I think, somewhat inconsistent with a document that guarantees freedom of religion.

If someone believes that a magic anthropomorphic toadstool used the Founding Fathers as marionettes and made them execute the Constitution, I think that's incorrect, but it's not "unacceptable." And if they want to paint a painting of the magic anthropomorphic toadstool holding a copy of the Constitution with George Washington, Count Chocula, The Lorax, and the members of Big Star looking on approvingly, then I don't think there's anything "unacceptable" about it.
posted by The World Famous at 4:46 PM on October 14, 2009


"it doesn't really seem like it's about freedom to drink what you want once it's been endorsed by a particular beverage."

Man, late '90s Sprite ads must have blown your mind.
posted by klangklangston at 6:01 PM on October 14, 2009


paint a painting of the magic anthropomorphic toadstool holding a copy of the Constitution with George Washington, Count Chocula, The Lorax, and the members of Big Star looking on approvingly

Pretty please? Someone?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:34 PM on October 14, 2009


But to say that it is "unacceptable" for someone to hold a religious belief that you think is incorrect is, I think, somewhat inconsistent with a document that guarantees freedom of religion.

It is not their religious beliefs that are unacceptable. It's their interpretation of the constitution. I have no problem with them being christian, just with them claiming that the constitution is fundamentally christian.

Man, late '90s Sprite ads must have blown your mind.

are you saying you think sprite ads are more about freedom than about sprite?
The point is just that a claim to a belief in free choice, proclaimed by the very authority who also has made it clear that one choice is better than the rest and is really what you ought to choose if you have a clue, doesn't seem like a genuine interest in freedom.

That doesn't mean christians can't have a genuine interest in freedom, or even sprite executives can't have a genuine interest in people drinking what they actually like, BUT, when they have jesus holding the constitution, or ads saying 'do what you want. sprite.', or whatever, it's not gonna work.
posted by mdn at 6:29 AM on October 15, 2009


It is not their religious beliefs that are unacceptable. It's their interpretation of the constitution. I have no problem with them being christian, just with them claiming that the constitution is fundamentally christian.

I'm not sure exactly who you're referring to as "they" in that passage. But I can assure you that, where mainstream Mormon beliefs are concerned, the idea that the creation of the U.S. Constitution was steered by divine intervention does not derive from an interpretation of the Constitution or from any understanding or misunderstanding of the motives or beliefs of the Framers. There are, however, Mormons who misunderstand the doctrine and combine it with zealous advocacy of political conservatism and who also misunderstand U.S. history.

The point is just that a claim to a belief in free choice, proclaimed by the very authority who also has made it clear that one choice is better than the rest and is really what you ought to choose if you have a clue, doesn't seem like a genuine interest in freedom.

So anyone who thinks that one choice (about anything - not just religion) is better than the rest cannot logically have a genuine interest in free choice? That doesn't make sense to me. I can think that the Pixies is the greatest band in the history of music and that listening to the Pixies is the best listening choice possible and, without contradiction, have a genuine interest in people not being forced by law to listen only to the Pixies. Where Christianity is concerned, the importance of that principle is even greater, since a fundamental part of (much) Christian doctrine is that salvation depends upon willingly and freely turning to Christ for salvation. Mormonism puts huge emphasis on the doctrinal belief that free choice is a central part of salvation. In fact, a lot of people view that belief as being closely tied to the origins of the religion in the early years of the United States' existence.

Moreover, the First Amendment is not about "free choice." It's about the government not establishing religion and about the government not interfering with people's right to free exercise of religion. Free choice of belief exists independent of legal framework. The First Amendment w/r/t religion is about government non-interference and non-coercion. It is not logically inconsistent to believe that one choice is best and also that people should be free to make the choice. I assume, for example, that you believe that some choices in life are better choices than others, but that you don't believe that the government should intervene and force people to make what you consider to be the better choices.

Now, conservative Christians tend to give greater weight to (their own interpretation of) the free exercise clause than to the establishment clause (as interpreted by modern jurisprudence). Likewise, the political Left tends to give more attention to the establishment clause than it does to the free exercise clause. Personally, I disagree with a weighted approach that favors either clause. But I'm weird.
posted by The World Famous at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2009


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