Monday, April 18, 2011


I read today that Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" photograph was destroyed by Christian protesters as it hung in the Avignon museum in Paris.

Certainly, I do not believe that the artist himself created this work in order to communicate any deep spiritual truth. Perhaps he did, I'm not sure really. But, as a follower of Christ and a student of Scripture, I do not find his artwork disturbing or offensive - at least not in the way that most Christians are offended by it.

If you're not familiar with Serrano's work, it is a photograph of a crucifix immersed in what is purported to be a glass jar of the artist's own urine. Hence the name, "Piss Christ."

The title itself is probably what most Christians find offensive. The idea of "Christ" being associated with "Piss" is scandalous. Of course, if you understand the Gospel message, then you should already be used to such a scandalous idea.

Because when Jesus left His perfect, holy throne in Glory and let go of His majesty and power, and inserted Himself into the womb of a teenage girl, and allowed Himself to become a baby, born in a stable that smelled of dung and animal urine, it was indeed the most scandalous act in the History of the Universe.

For me, Serrano's "Piss Christ" is theologically accurate and artistically beautiful. It is probably one of the most profound and moving works of Christian art I've seen in my lifetime. What could be more amazing than the truth which this art communicates so powerfully and effectively?

Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself and entered our world of filth and repugnant sinfulness in order to express his unending love for all mankind.

Some of us who call ourselves Christians want to keep Jesus above the common and the lowly. We don't want to see Jesus wallowing in our sin, touching prostitutes, hugging lepers, kissing tax collectors, and forgiving adultress women. But that is who Jesus is. This is what the Gospel is all about.

If Jesus is really to be "God with us" then we have to allow Him to actually be "with us" and we are more sinful and dirty than we care to admit.

Maybe that's what's really going on? Maybe what we're most offended by is the idea that WE are immersed in our own piss and feces of sin? Maybe Serrano's art reminds us of our absolute and utter filthiness and exposes our dark and sinful hearts?

I don't know for sure, but I will tell you this: If we cannot allow a Holy God to leave His throne and become one of us, and swim in our filth, and suffer and die in our place - even at our hands - then we cannot call ourselves "Christians", because this is at the very heart of the Gospel message.



Anonymous said...

Wow. I haven't heard of this piece of art (although, I have to admit, I'm hesitant to call it that).

Interesting take on it, Keith, and some good points.

Often we just react to things, unthinkingly, as Christians. We need to take a step back, more often, and wait and see if God shows us something below the surface.

I once was listening to the Police song Roxanne, and I ended up in tears because I started to hear it as God speaking to the church, as though she were a prostitute:

"I loved you since I knew ya
I wouldn't talk down to ya
I have to tell you just how I feel
I won't share you with another boy."

"Roxanne, you don't have to put on the red light
Those days are over
You don't have to sell your body to the night."

Tex said...

Nicely said, Keith. I appreciate your take on what happened - focused on the overlooked truth instead of getting irate about people committing acts of destruction in Christ's name. Yet again, making us think. Thanks!

R.C. said...

Wow. Insightful take on the whole situation, brother. Refreshing and beautiful. Thanks.

Also an insightful look at the song, "Roxanne", Chris. Thanks for that, too. :)

paul mckay said...

well done; i remember all the vicious reaction to this, typically from the kind of people who want Jesus depicted as the blue-eyed, All American boy (with blow dried hair) in so much Christian art. as if Christ wasn't getting down and dirty with down and dirty people in messy places and situations.

Greg Vasquez said...

Was this actually what the artist intended? or what you are taking from this yourself? I always thought it was intended as a bash against God or Christianity in general. Also it's not just Christ in the urine, it's the Cross. If this is logical to do this, then the work of the cross should be the subject here. I do see your logic, but this can prove to hurt your cause if this is not what the artist intended. This artwork is the ultimate "appearance of evil".

Lori Stilger said...

Wow, Keith. I never would have seen it that way - but you're right, it is pretty symbolic. And since art isn't necessarily what the ARTIST intended to say, but how it's PERCEIVED, I love that you took such a new viewpoint. Thanks for making me think!
BTW, I sure wish I could come spend Holy Week with y'all. What a unique experience to gift to people!

Will Rochow said...


I can see (sort of) where you're coming from. However, I also side a little with Greg V. who wondered if your take is what the author intended. But the flip side is, regardless how it was intended and received, God can use all things for His glory, even this. Scripture often speaks of that which man intended for evil, God turning around for good (eg. Genesis 50:20). I see this in the same way.

In reading your post, I was also wondering if part of the objections to the "art" were also related to the language being used. The word "piss" has a somewhat negative slang connotation, that perhaps even borders on swearing for some Christians.

I remember being amused when, many years ago, I discovered that the Bible even uses that language (in the KJV) with reference to men urinating. For example, 1 Samuel 25:22 says "any that pisseth against the wall"(KJV). Likewise 1 & 2 Kings also uses the same language in a few more verses. As young boys we found this quite funny.

Perhaps that word is not so new and offensive after all.

Anyway, there you have my two cents worth. Blessings.