In the midst of the most recent gallery hop night, Jodie and I found John and his art in a room covered with his creatures, and filled with people. The first thing I ever said to him was, "What made you put a penis on Jesus?" He had a lot of works featuring Christ in contexts other than those favored by organized religion (note my carefulness here). In an effort to not misrepresent John, I'll just say that some of the Jesuses had leather jackets, many had penises--there was a lot going on. In answer to my question, John smiled and explained that it was his understanding that Jesus was likely to have had a penis, and that nobody seems to want to talk about this. (It is true: even in a recent film touted as being painfully realistic with regard to violence, the director chose to tastefully conceal the Lord's genitals.) A brief talk ensued, and soon we were off to the next gallery.
A week later I was at John's again, buying one of his Christs (one where he is fully clothed, but in which the Lord's pupils are dialated for some reason.) We got to talking about his childhood, and his involvement with Church. He used to play in an old cinderblock church near his home, and he was sure his irreverence would be punished. As much as some of his paintings may have been offensive, John was disarming--easy to talk to.
And as we talked, I couldn't help but want him to come share his thoughts in our conversation on Sunday mornings. I wanted him to come, more for us than for him. So I actually brought it up. I felt like I did in high school, inviting a stranger to youth group. He kindly explained that sleep is too precious to him, but that our conversation had been meaningful to him. It was at this point that some learning began for me. John said that our talk had been meaningful because our divinities had met. There was a touch of the divine in me, and a touch in him, as there is a touch in every human. When we meet in love and respect, the divine is affirmed. This helps him to respect people he can't stand but has to deal with (I assume I am not in this category for John, but maybe). This was his motivation for right action.
This was so great for me to hear. I tend to err on the side of mistaking humanity as being fatally flawed. People constantly disappoint me; I often resent them/us. I forget these very ones are bearing God's image. I like the idea of carrying divinity around with me. Then I left the gallery with a painting of Jesus. I had the honor of walking home with Jesus. A part of me wanted to show everybody what John had done. I was looking for neighbors, looking for Jodie. At the same time I was afraid of not being worthy of bearing this image around town. I was a little embarrassed to have this Jesus in my hand. By the time I got home I was glad to bring him in and shut the door. I am the work that is in progress.