Friday, March 28, 2014

Giclee Prints of the Passion Series Are Now Available

You can now buy giclee prints and cards of all 24 panels of the Passion of Christ through Fine Art America.

A big thanks to Kittredge Cherry who made this happen.

She explains all the details:

Order now and you will receive your prints and cards in time for Holy Week, which starts April 13.  The 24 images show Jesus as a gay man of today in a modern city. 
 “Doug and I keep getting requests from people who want to buy reproductions of his Passion paintings, so we worked together to set up the new website. We see this as a service to individuals and organizations that want to foster spiritual reflection, especially during Holy Week,” said Kittredge Cherry, author of a forthcoming book on the gay Passion series.  
 Reproductions of the Passion are offered through Fine Art America, one of the largest, most-respected giclee printing companies in the world with over 40 years of experience producing museum-quality prints.  
They provide expert printing, custom framing and matting, shipping worldwide within three business days, and a 30-day money back guarantee. All of their prints are produced on state-of-the-art, professional-grade Epson printers. They use acid-free papers and canvases with archival inks to ensure that your prints will last a lifetime without fading or loss of color.  
 Fine Art America is also one of the biggest and best custom framers in the world. They stock more than 250 different frames that can be used to create museum-quality masterpieces. They also offer “metal prints” printed on aluminum and mounted on wood, and “acrylic prints” printed on a sheet of clear, high-gloss acrylic.  
 The greeting cards are 5 by 7 inches and can be customized with your own personal text printed on the inside. If you are interested in buying a complete set of all 24 prints, contact Kitt and Doug for a discount price quote. (Not available for cards.)  
 "The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision" by New York artist Doug Blanchard presents a liberating new vision of Jesus' final days, including Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and the arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. The contemporary Christ figure is jeered by fundamentalists, tortured to death by soldiers, and rises again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom. Viewers call it “accessible but profound.”  
 The gay Passion series will be featured here at the Jesus in Love Blog next month from Holy Week to Easter, April 13-20. Blog posts will include reflections by lesbian Christian author and art historian Kittredge Cherry and art by Blanchard. Their illustrated book about the gay Passion will be published later this year by Apocryphile Press. Click here to be notified when the book is published

That's right!  I almost forgot!  There's a book coming out on these paintings.  Stay tuned.


And we made our first sale.  And another sale.

Religions and Philosophies of the World

... variations on the famous tee shirt:

existentialism -- Shit happens
Stoicism -- Shit happens, so buck up sissy pants!
Epicureanism -- Shit happens, so what?  It doesn't matter
Platonism -- Shit is but the corrupted shadow of Idea
NeoPlatonism -- Idea is real, shit is not
Theosophy -- God is real, shit is not
Atheism -- Shit is real, God is not
Agnosticism -- I have no idea why shit happens.
Jesus -- Shit happens because we are selfish.
Buddha -- Shit happens because we desire it.
Ayn Randism -- Shit happens because of dependent weakling leeches who have no right to live.
capitalism -- If I make more profit, then there's less chance shit will happen to me.
communism -- Do what the Party tells you, and shit won't happen to you.
socialism -- We can get through this shit if we all pull together.
classical liberalism -- Everyone should be free to do their own shit.
contemporary liberalism -- Shit wouldn't happen if we had better education and health care.
conservatism -- Things were so much better before this shit happened.
Burkean conservatism -- After generations of historical inheritance, our shit stinks like incense.
libertarianism -- Leave my shit alone!
armed libertarianism -- I'll only tell you once, stay the fuck away from my shit!
utilitarianism -- This shit is useless.
aestheticism -- This shit is ugly.
determinism -- This shit is bound to happen.
pacifism -- Fine, go ahead and start a fight, but don't come crying to me when shit happens.
survivalism -- If I can survive this shit, then I win!
criminality -- Do shit to others before they do shit to you.
Judaism -- Why does shit always happen to us?  Why can't God pick on somebody else?
Christianity -- Love your shitty neighbor with all your shitty heart because God loves you, you shitty bastard!
Buddhism -- Leave that shit behind and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
Hinduism -- You deserve the shit you get in this life because of the shit you did in your past life.
ancient religion -- Shit happens because the gods are angry.
Confucianism -- If we all do our duty to those above and below us, to our families, to our ancestors and to Heaven, shit won't happen.
Taoism -- Shit happens when you try to stick a name on the Tao.
Deconstructivism -- What exactly is the strategy behind words like "shit" and "happens?"
Postmodernism -- Shit doesn't just happen to privileged white males.
Fox News -- Why does shit always happen to privileged white males?
scientism -- Shit is just another stage in evolution.
German idealism -- Shit is a stage in the over-arching rational process of Idea becoming form.
Marxism -- Shit is a necessary stage in the inevitable realization of the proletarian state.
pragmatism -- But will this shit work?
empiricism -- And what kind of experience do we have with this shit?
nationalism -- Shit happens when you're not true to your tribe.
anarchism -- Fuck this shit!
imperialism -- Conquer and colonize that shit!
racism -- Shit is the fault of other races.
antisemitism -- Shit is a Jewish conspiracy.
tea-baggers -- Shit is Obama's fault.
homophobia -- Shit is the gays' fault.
misogyny -- Shit is women's fault.
Irish Catholicism -- Shit is all my fault.
Roman Catholicism -- You can get through this shit if you pray, pay, and obey Holy Mother Church.
Episcopalianism -- We're too nice for this shit.
Calvinism -- Shit happens because people are evil and God hates them all except for the Elect.
Lutheranism -- I'm full of shit, but I am saved by my faith.
Methodism -- Shit happens, but I feel my heart strangely warmed.
Creationism -- Shit happens because some woman riding a dinosaur named Eve picked an apple 5000 years ago.
Christian Fundamentalism -- Shit happens because the Bible says so.
Prosperity Gospel -- Shit won't happen to me because Jesus is my winning lottery ticket!
Islam -- It is revealed in the Holy Quran that shit happens.
Islam (Al Quaeda version) -- ... and when shit happens to us, we will kill the infidels.
Islamic State -- Even if shit never happens, we will kill and eat everyone who isn't us.
the Mafia -- We can't be responsible for the shit that will happen if we don't get paid.
religious fanatics -- We can't be responsible for the shit that will happen if you don't submit to the Moloch that we call god.
apocalyptic religious fanatics -- We hope and pray that the worst possible shit will happen so that we can be revenged on all of our enemies and vindicated by our Moloch that we call god.
white supremacists -- Shit is the fault of black people.
black nationalists -- Shit is the fault of white people.
misanthropes -- Shit is everybody's damn fault.
cynics -- There's a little shit in everything.
nihilists -- There's nothing but shit everywhere.
solipsists -- Shit has nothing to do with me.
skeptics -- You're just shittin' me.
Dr. Pangloss -- What shit? Where? It's all beautiful, man!
18th Century Philosophes -- Shit happens because people are unreasonable.
ideologues -- Shit happens because people stray from the agenda.
legalism -- Shit happens because you broke the law.
fatalism -- Shit is inevitable.
moralism -- Shit happens because you deserve it.
authoritarianism -- Shit happens because you stepped out of line and didn't follow instructions.
you -- Shit happens because ______________.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking A Flying Leap Off the World Trade Center

Helmet-cam footage taken by one of 3 adrenaline junkies of parachute jumps from the top of the World Trade Center in the wee hours of the morning on September 30, 2013 emerged when the 3 guys turned themselves into the police recently.  This was all quite illegal of course.  This is the most dramatic of a series of security breaches recently come to light at the WTC.  The other was a 15 year old boy from New Jersey who crawled under a hole in the fence and climbed to the top of the tower before security discovered that he was even there.

Pretty amazing, but still not the same as Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974.

Hold onto your acrophobia, because here is your vicarious experience of jumping from the top of the World Trade Center.  Some people just ain't got no sense.

"God looks after fools, children, and Americans" -- Italian proverb

Hat tip to JoeMyGod.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Night After A Grumpy Week

Who needs mescaline when you've got Busby Berkeley.

The finale to The Gang's All Here:

A World Where the Only Real Choice Is Between Atheism and Fundamentalism

... is a world where I'd have as little to do as possible with both.


I can't decide which is worse; a fundamentalist trying to convert me or an atheist trying to do the same thing.  I've had to suffer both lately.
They're both so anxious to get me to see the light, and they both quote the Bible at me.

And they're both so damn mean, hostile, and repulsive when I don't respond the way they expect.


And then there's dealing with all those damn supercilious clergy on the comment threads on Thinking Anglicans.  I've decided to give that blog up for Lent, and maybe Easter too.


Maybe I should just tell folks that I'm agnostic, "I dunno.."  It's partially true.
Then there's the tactic that my old Pakistani friend in St. Louis used to pull on doorbell evangelists:
"I go to Paradise if I kill infidels like you!" and then he would give them a look, shut the door, and get a beer out of the fridge.  He had the look to bring that off.  I don't.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vladimir Putin

The President of the Russian Federation is perhaps the most successful enemy of Western liberalism.  In place of decadent liberal democracy and inclusiveness, Putin presents an Eastern alternative of nationalism and autocracy.  Who needs the rule of law when you have a leader's charisma and strong passions of injured national identity?  Now there's a man of action!

To paraphrase George Orwell, I think there are a lot of people in the West (especially those who really hate liberalism and all that it stands for) who don't so much fear Vladimir Putin as envy him.

I'm not sure we are exactly in a position to morally scold Putin when it comes to invading and occupying places without provocation.  Besides, he despises us for believing our own hypocrisy.  He certainly doesn't believe his.

I think all that's going to come out of the West over Crimea is a lot of sanctimony and not much else.
No one wants to spend their blood and treasure going to war with Russia over Crimea or Ukraine.


Icons of Joseph Stalin (I kid you not):


In contrast, here is an icon of the Million Martyrs; Christians killed by the Soviet regime.  I'm not sure this is really any better.  At the bottom of the icon in the center is the Imperial Family featuring the murdered Tsarevitch.  What a strange country Russia is!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nature and Nature's God

The Great Orion Nebula

I've watched 2 episodes of that new version of "Cosmos" with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, and so far, I'm enjoying it. I think Dr. Tyson is a worthy successor to Carl Sagan, and I especially enjoyed his personal story about how Sagan directly influenced him, a kid from the Bronx, to take up a career in science. Since I teach college kids in the Bronx, I found this very moving.
I liked the second episode much better than the first. The second, about evolution and natural selection, was much better organized and coherent than the first. The first episode I thought was rambling and spent too much time on Giordano Bruno (who was not a scientist) and not enough on Copernicus and Galileo, and none on Isaac Newton (who all were scientists).
The second episode did a fine job of explaining evolution and its mechanics to the science-impaired like myself. I thought Dr Tyson and the show's producers did a great job of rescuing evolution from 2 popular misconceptions; the Herbert Spencer "Survival of the Fittest" way of thinking about natural selection, and "intelligent design," the idea that something like the human eye is so complex and sophisticated a mechanism that there must have been some intervening transcendence directing its design. They returned evolution to Darwin's original conception of something that happens over many generations, and that happens spontaneously by chance; not as some ongoing war among the creatures, and not as some piece of amazing clockwork either. Nature, like the world of human affairs, is full of trial and error. Since we belong to nature, why should that surprise us?

The issues around this are too vast for a blog post, so here are some random thoughts on Nature and Nature's God:

 --The great ethical contribution of evolution is the idea that all forms of life are inextricably linked together in their very fabric. That's an idea that is still working itself out in all its implications in human society. It's an idea that I find very moving and deeply gratifying, and that I am myself trying to sort through.

--There are few more sterile arguments to my mind than "science versus religion."  It always ends in bad science meets even worse religion and goes nowhere with both sides dug in and no one budges an inch.

 --How much God is "damaged" or "explained away" by science depends on what you expect God to be.  If you expect God to be a kind of absolute cosmic autocrat in which nothing happens that is not His will, then God will always be a tremendous disappointment.  Such a conception of God would not long survive a clash with the available evidence.  I've never believed in God the First Cause of everything that happens, God the Great Puppeteer.  The ancient Greeks may have believed that we are but the playthings of the gods, but never their puppets.  We, and everything else, have agency.  And yet, everyone yearns for the Great Cosmic Puppet Master.  Everyone wonders why the universe has to be so rotten.  Why doesn't God just waive His hand and fix everything?  And if He did, what then?

--Just because everyone (including me) makes God in his own image doesn't necessarily mean that He's not there.

--Perhaps God has only one power, but it's a big power that trumps everything else; the power of creation, the power to make being out of nothing, to make life out of death.

 --The transcendent cannot be proved or demonstrated by definition. If it could be proved and demonstrated, it wouldn't be transcendent.

 --Of course religious faith is fundamentally irrational. It wouldn't be faith if it was otherwise.

 --I've never bought the idea of "proving" God's existence from the workings of nature. The order that we observe proves nothing other than our minds prefer order to randomness.  We are hardwired to prefer the order of the crystal over the randomness of an algae bloom.  Neither of those things demonstrates that God exists.  There is nothing out there to help us out with any decision over whether or not there is a God.  We either believe God is there, or we don't.

--I don't believe in religious doctrines of "natural law."  By our standards, nature is very lawless. "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice," said Charles Darwin.   What order nature has seems to me to have little relevance to the way people make a society for themselves.  The basic workings of the processes of life and the cosmos mean little to us as models to organize a community to provide for our welfare, safety, and happiness.

--I remember my dad watched a bird take a dragonfly out of the air and exclaimed, "What a depressing thought, that your entire life adds up to nothing more than a satisfying poop for a bigger animal."

Since the analogies are rot
Our senses based belief upon,
We have no means of learning what
Is really going on,  
And must put up with having learned
All proofs or disproofs that we tender
Of His existence are returned
Unopened to the sender.
                                                   --WH Auden from "Friday's Child"

--The big question for the religious, is there really any compelling reason beyond our own preferences to believe in God?

--As far as I am concerned, it is not the business of religion to explain anything.  Figuring things out and explaining them is the business of science. We have religion for the same reason that we prefer to talk to a real live person on the other side of the table or at the other end of the phone, and never to an automated voice messaging system.

--"Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty."
                                                --Jacob Bronowski

--"Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible."
                                                --Jacob Bronowski

--Perhaps the pleasure we take from nature -- the view from a mountain top, the blooming of flowers, thunder and lightning in a summer storm -- is not about God, but about the sheer pleasure of being alive.  Those things may not prove that God exists, but our pleasure in them demonstrates that if God exists, then He is good for He made being alive to be good.

--There is only one "mountain top" experience in the Gospels.  The rest of the 4 Books are strikingly prosaic.  There is nothing in them like the story of Zeus and Semele.  In the Gospels, we are much more likely to meet God by the side of the road, in a city street, in a crowd, or in prison than we are to meet him on top of a mountain or see him in sublime spectacles.

--I love looking at and reading about the experience of other worlds.  I love looking at all the new photos that come in from explorer satellites of the surface of Mars or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.  And yet, as marvelous as they are, I cannot help but feel that everything beyond our own small planet is a vast desolation.

--I remember reading many years ago a passage in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson where the two men made a trip to Greenwich on a summer afternoon.  They climbed the hill and watched the sunset.  Boswell describes watching the sun setting over the surrounding countryside as an exhilarating experience.  He asked Johnson if he had ever seen anything more beautiful.  "Yes," Johnson replied, "Fleet Street."

Andrea Pisano, Astronomy, from the bell tower of Florence Cathedral, 14th century

Fred Phelps Is Dying

According to Nathan Phelps, one of his estranged and excommunicated sons, Fred Phelps is in hospice care somewhere in Topeka.  He also says that Fred was "excommunicated" from the Phelps family church in August of last year.  I have no idea what this could mean.  It could be a factional fight over some small arcane point of doctrine; extreme fundamentalist sects are usually quick to split into factions and to anathematize each other over the smallest disagreements.  I hope that Fred is having some kind of deathbed repentance, regrets over all the harm he caused to so many people.  We may never know.

I've always said that Fred Phelps was the best friend LGBT liberation movements ever had.  He infuriated people enough to come out of their closets.  He enraged our hetero families and friends into fighting the 'phobes with us and for us.  His repulsive antics made other hetero folk take a good hard look at themselves.  Fred and his Westboro Baptist Church were a big dead skunk around the necks of our enemies; Fred smeared shit all over their finely crafted focus-group tested arguments and well financed publicity campaigns.  Fred was always their problem, not ours.

Fred Phelps carried his obsessive hatreds all the way into sedition.  A phone call from one of his kindred spirits in the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Iran, or Russia might have taken him all the way to high treason, except that he was too marginal and too crazy to be of any use to them.

I am going to repeal Godwin's law here and say that Fred could indeed have been as bad as Hitler.  Imagine what he would have done with the power and resources of a modern industrialized state at his disposal.  He would have happily murdered us all along with all of our friends and acquaintances.  Imagine if Hitler had been admitted to art school in Vienna, he might have been an outrageously offensive crank just like Fred, but no more than that.

Penitent or not, Fred Phelps is dying.  I don't think the Westboro group will last much longer beyond his death.  I predict it will fall apart in defections and factional in-fighting made all the more bitter because they are family.  He leaves behind a legacy of toxic waste, but no more than that.

Fred Phelps was ultimately a side show.  Our really dangerous enemies are those with a lot more organizational skill and unlimited funds from right wing billionaires; the ones who can get legislation passed in Africa and Eastern Europe, and who can still influence legislation in the USA.  Gays and lesbians now play the role once assigned to Jews a century ago, as living embodiments of modernity and liberalism feared and hated in some parts of the world.  Homophobia is easily grafted onto the populist antisemitism that still pervades Eastern Europe and much of the Middle East.

I think nothing should be done to mark Fred's passing; no pickets, no demonstrations, nothing.

Feel free to vent in the comments thread.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This Blog isn't Not Dead Yet

I've just been very busy, or very tired from being very busy.  I haven't forgotten about the blog.  I hope to have some posts up and running in the near future.