To be honest, I’ve been trying to step away from the issues at Louisiana College. I am now two years removed from my affiliation with LC and while I have tried to be a voice for honesty, integrity, and transparency, I am now 2,000 miles away from LC working on a PhD in California. Further, the Board has spoken. They have chosen to back Joe Aguillard despite his numerous moral and leadership failures. There is certainly the temptation to shake the dust from my feet. Some others have done that and I fully support them in moving on. Others, like Trustee Jay Adkins, have chosen to stay in the fight despite the obstacles. I admire his commitment to not be weary in well doing! I must admit I am weary. But, in my time at Louisiana College I also met many good people who are still on campus and I feel for the students there. I have sen first hand the harm that LC does to the faith of some students and it breaks my heart. So, for me I will not be completely shaking the dust from my sandals. I will make occasional posts when it is merited. But, I am also anxious to get back to my passions. I very much enjoyed my my recent blog series on Five Evangelical Christs which I am currently adapting to a paper.
President Joe Aguillard
So what does all this have to do with Despotism? Over the last three weeks I have been quietly watching the considerable fall-out from Aguillard’s victory. In many ways it has been predictable. There have been two main strategies. First, there has been an attempt to control the narrative. Secondly, Aguillard has sought to re-assert his authority. Continue reading
Emanuel Garibay, The Oblation, oil on canvas, 30 3/4″ x 99 1/4″, 2008
This is the last piece in a series of posts on images of Christ and evangelical culture. If you are new to the series you may want to go back to The Introduction (Part 1) and catch up.
Emmanuel Garibay is different than the other artists in this series in several ways. First, he is a Filipino artist whose work engages the western tradition but to an extent functions from outside that tradition. This is most evident in the fact that this “Christ” is an Asian Christ. I first met Garibay when we both participated in the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity‘s inaugural seminar which took art professors from North American institutions and connected us with Asian artists and theorists for a two week experience in Indonesia. There was a great deal of discussion during the seminar about how the images of Christ used in Asian churches were typically Western. The lack of an eastern Christian visual culture was troubling to some of our Asian counterparts.
However, this image is not merely a depiction of an Asian Christ. There is an ambiguity about the identity of of this powerful figure. Continue reading
To fully understand the context of this series, you may want to read Part 1.
Thomas Kinkade, The Prince of Peace, released March 1999
Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012) is simultaneously the most praised and most castigated Christian artist of our time. During his life, he was, monetarily speaking, among the most successful living artists of all time. Kinkade claimed to be the most collected living artist. However, despite his wide spread popular success he was never fully accepted by the art world, neither secular nor religious. His controversy only grew after his death when the demons of his personal life became public.
For many evangelicals, Kinkade’s work has a powerful resonance. Embedded deep in his work is a nostalgia similar to what was discussed with Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ. Kinkade is best known for his idealized cabins with a warm light radiating from within. But, he is also known for quaint Main Street scenes, serine light houses, and even street scenes from major cities painted in a way which evokes a bygone era. His most known religious works are churches. His churches are typically country churches which, like his cabins, are set in idealized bucolic scenery with warm light shining from within. Continue reading
Edward Knippers, The Sacrifice, 1986, oil on panel, 16′ x 11′ irregular
If you are new to this series you may want to go back to Part 1 to better understand the project I am undertaking.
Edward Kinppers is the first contemporary artists I am looking at in this series. For several decades, Knippers has been among the most prominent evangelical artists in the United States. But, during his career he has also been a controversial figure. In 1983, Knippers began working exclusively with images of Biblical scenes. These scenes have been painted with all participating figures in the nude. The nudity in Knippers work has been cause for attacks against his work on several occasions. When Knippers exhibited his work at Huntington College the College administration in the face of protests reluctantly closed the exhibition. When his work was exhibited at Covenant College the it was actually slashed by a vandal who claimed that Knipper’s work “made the Old and New Testaments into a nudist colony.” Within the secular art world his work has also been castigated for being too Biblical. Continue reading
Dr. Kevin McFadden
The non-renewal of the contracts of Kevin McFadden, Ryan Lister, and Jason Hiles caused a real stir a few months back. This was especially true since the non-renewals coincided with public statements from President Aguillard about his position against “hyper-Calvinism”. It was assumed by all that the non-renewal had to do with the tensions between Arminian and Calvinist camps within the Louisiana Baptist Convention. As more information became available and further conversations where had it became clear to me that Calvinism, at least in the case of Jason Hiles, was used as a smoke screen to hide that Aguillard was trying to hurt Dr. Quarles for blowing the whistle. Aguillard chose to attack Quarles by attacking those under him. It is a little less clear with Mcfadden and Lister if the primary motivation was hurting Quarles or if they simply got caught in the situation and it was more theological for them. If it was theological, it was also misplaced to fight over a secondary doctrine, or tertiary as McFadden argues. Continue reading
Peter Paul Rubens, Christ on the Cross, c. 1610, oil on panel, 45” x 30¾”, The Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery
You may want to first read earlier parts of this series on The Five Evangelical Christs: The Introduction (Part 1) & Warner Sallman (Part 2)
This installment is a bit different than all the others in that Peter Paul Rubens is not a modern or contemporary artist. The question then becomes how does a four hundred year old painting by a Catholic artists fit into American evangelicalism?
The answer is actually found in the collection in which the painting currently resides. In the middle part of the 20th century, Bob Jones University, at the impetus of its President Bob Jones Jr., was one of the worlds greatest collectors of religious art. The bulk of the Bob Jones University Collection came from its inception in 1951 through 1968. In 1960, right in the middle of this growth period, Bob Jones Jr. acquired Peter Paul Ruben’s Christ on the Cross which is believed to be the modello that Rubens kept in his studio from which apprentices would work.
In Rubens’ painting, Christ is powerfully muscular and despite the blood spilling from his woulds and the tortuous piercing of the nails Christ remains in control. Consistent with Catholic pictorial tradition Christ is not overwhelmed by his pain and demonstrates a dignity transcendent of his agony.
For 53 years, this image has been on display on the Bob Jones University Campus. To the delight of some and consternation of others, BJU has been one of the most influential Christian Universities over the last 80 years and images like this do help develop a cultural ethos. Continue reading
Warner Sallman, Head of Christ, 1941, oil on canvas, 28 1/4″ x 22 1/8″
In the Introduction (Part 1) of this series, I explained the project I am undertaking with this series. If you have not read the Introduction I believe you will find it helpful.
Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ is an icon of American religious art. Painted in 1941 the image was continuously reproduced throughout World War II and the YMCA and Salvation Army, as a part of the USO, handed out the image to soldiers during the war. The image had continued success after the war with some groups intentionally seeking to place reproductions of Head of Christ in both public and private locations throughout the Midwest. This image has become the most reproduced image of Christ with over 500 million reproductions.
This leads to two key questions. First, why did Sallman choose to depict Jesus in the way he did? Second, what accounts for the tremendous popularity of the image? These are actually difficult and complicated questions; but, I will briefly outline some of the major contributing factors. Continue reading
The Sunday School Jesus
Currently, I am working on a project where I will be looking at five images of Jesus and discussing how they reflect evangelical beliefs. Evangelicalism is not a monolithic movement and one finds a great deal of theological diversity within the movement. It is my belief that the art reflects a persons philosophy so not only is the work reflective of the philosophy (in this case theology) of the artist but it is also reflective of the theology of those persons who are patrons of the work. It is not my purpose to argue the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of these theologies but to reflect upon how these artworks are reflective of evangelical perspectives on Christ regardless of their theological validity.
It is also my intention to very briefly bring into my research examples of evangelical music including Contemporary Christian Music, hymns, and praise music; evangelical theological writing; and popular evangelical writing including books and blogs. These examples will be used to demonstrate that the Christ images coincide with more broadly held evangelical perspectives. This is where I am hoping that my readers will be able to help out. Continue reading
The Green Face by Wisnu Sasongko
Check Wisnu Sasongko out the newest artist profiled as Artists in Focus. He is an Indonesian artist who I met in 2008 when I was a part of a cross cultural program to Indonesia.
Since I reported last week that Samuel Camp of Pamlab pharmaceutical wealth was the new donor at LC, there have been claims to the contrary. At this point, I am uncertain of the truth. I have had additional sources confirm that Sam Camp is the donor and the information trail seems to lead all the way back to President Aguillard’s office. On the other hand, two comments on my blog come from people who claim to know Camp and they say he denies he is the donor. So, at this point it is impossible to tell if Camp is denying true claims to continue to protect his anonymity or if the information that, according to multiple sources, came from the President’s office is incorrect.
Either way, the publication of Samuel Camp’s name uncovered some disturbing information. Two different sources sent me a link to a sexual harassment case which was appealed to the Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court upheld the juries conclusion that Pamlab was guilty of sexual discrimination toward Carleen Black stating, “We conclude that there was ample evidence to support the jury’s finding of sex discrimination” and “In sum, there was ample evidence by which the jury could conclude that Pamlab had a corporate culture hostile to women, that this discriminatory animus extended to Pamlab’s management, and that Black’s sex was a motivating factor in Pamlab’s decision to terminate her.” This information is important whether or not Sam Camp is the individual who pledged $10 million to Louisiana College because Camp is a member of the Louisiana College Board of Trustees and a member who voted to exonerate Joe Aguillard from the whistle-blower charges. I think many people will find the text below very bothersome, especially as it relates to a a board member of a Christian College. The date on the legal ruling, which is the second appeal on the case, is July 2011. It is unclear if Sam Camp joined the Louisiana College Board of Trustees in 2008 or 2011. Either way this information should have been considered. If he joined the BoT in 2008 he was renewed in 2011 after this appeal was concluded.
The Court’s decision lays out the following information : Continue reading