Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Velvet Jesus

There is a velvet Jesus hanging in my home. It is a painting depicting the crucifixion, from the neck up and with the edges of the cross in view as well as the crown of thorns. It is done in dark green on a black canvass with a wooden frame. And now it's mine.

So who precisely would want such a thing, some of you may be wondering. For one thing, it has sentimental value. From my earliest memories until I was 11 or so, it always hung in a place of prominence in our home. I remember at one long-time residence it was in the living room. It didn't get demoted, as it were, until my late mother remarried. Because of recent events, I was going through some "old" family stuff, mostly my own, things I haven't seen or thought about in years, to help with a move. And there it was, sitting in a corner. The old painting of Jesus that I used to see every day as a young child.

But it has more than just sentimental value. It was the de facto center of God/faith/higher purpose in the home of my youth. That is, to a small child who had an intuitive sense of/desire to find that which was good and fair and just, and who was being raised to believe that this was equivalent to the person of Jesus Christ, having such a prominent image of that figure was a reminder of that which I had been seeking and that which I had been taught about the spiritual dimension of life. It wasn't so much that I actually believed that Jesus was watching me from the painting, but instead it was a vivid reminder that Jesus was watching me all the time.

So it is more than a little ironic that as I have come to be at peace with my Christian upbringing, with a recognition of the short-sightedness of certain teachings in the fundamentalist churches I attended growing up and my disagreements with many of what are still considered essential beliefs in traditional Christianity, this image has found its way back into my life. It's like something out of a script or something - the kind of symbolism you see in novels ("finding the old painting and hanging it in his home symbolizes the reconciliation he has finally made with the religion of his youth").

My relationship, for lack of a better term, with the painting has changed slightly. While it still serves as a
reminder of that which I had been seeking (goodness, fairness, mercy, etc) and that which I am learning about the spiritual dimension of life, it does so not as a symbol of limiting or boxing in that search or that dimension, but through providing a sense of continuity and inspiration. Is that funny or what?

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