Making The Point at GoMA

I was in Glasgow today catching up with Thomas and on the way back I passed Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).  There was a news article the other night about their sh[OUT] exhibition, this year’s social justice exhibition.  This year the topic is lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender life with a particular emphasis on Human Rights.  Along side this exhibition is Made in God’s Image, which explores the intersection of sexuality and religion from and LGBT perspective.

As you can imagine the exhibition has not been without its controversy but, despite the subject matter, the thing that has caused the most ‘upset’ is an exhibit which is a film of a woman tearing out pages of the Bible and eating them, sticking them on her face, over her eyes and ears, in her bra.  Near to the screen is a Bible which people ‘who feel they have been excluded from the Bible’ can write on.

The idea of the piece is to highlight how the Bible has been used to discriminate against anyone who has a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

The piece was created by a Christian, Jane Clarke.

Ms Clarke said: “Writing our names in the margins of a Bible was to show how we have been marginalised by many Christian churches, and also our desire to be included in God’s love.

“As a young Christian I was encouraged by my church to write my own insights in the margins of the Bible I used for my daily devotions – this was an extension of that idea. I still have that Bible, although it’s rather tatty now.”

The Bible has been placed in a glass case now at the request of Ms Clarke and visitors can write in a blank book next to the Bible, the pages of which will be inserted into the Bible.

I nipped in to see what the fuss was about.  Inside I met a BBC film crew and Lorna Gordon, the BBC’s Scotland reporter, doing a piece on the exhibition.  I wondered why.  It has already been on the news.

Inside I saw some great art, some stuff that I liked and some that I didn’t like and some stuff that was pretty explicit.

I also saw this controversial exhibit.  I didn’t like it.  It didn’t work for me but I get her point.

On the way out I noticed a group of people…


They were conservative Christians protesting against the exhibition.  I wanted to go and ask them if they had been in to see it.  But I didn’t.

I noticed two things.

The first was the irony.  A group of religious people protesting against an LGBT exhibition commenting on how religion has been used to oppress them made me laugh then feel sad.

The second thing I noticed was the irony.  The protesters had banners with ‘The Bible is God’s Perfect Creation’ on one of them.  Again the irony seemed to escape them.  Their complaint, apart from being against anyone not being straight, is that the Bible is being defaced, not that God’s creations, people, are being hurt and discriminated against.

I like the Bible.  I have lots of them.  I’ve written on some of them.  I’ve thrown some in the bin.  I’m not worried that I’ll go to Hell for that because it’s a book, a special book, but a book.  And the minute it becomes more than that it becomes an idol.

The intention of the artist was not that people should deface the Bible.  It was that people who have been excluded should be able to write themselves back into God’s story.  That’s a very powerful image.

The Bible is not the revelation of God’s word, Jesus Christ is.  The Bible is a recording of history, law, songs, prophecy, biography and letters.  I have no doubt that it contains God’s word but it doesn’t ‘contain’ Jesus.  He’s much bigger than the Bible.

I wish these people who protest were more upset about poverty, war, famine, drugs, violence or slavery.  Or perhaps I just wish they would go up the stairs into gallery and see the effect they have on people Created in God’s Image and have a bit more respect for people who are trying to tell us something important.

[UPDATE] Roddy Hamilton has written a much better post on this over at Abbotsford

6 thoughts on “Making The Point at GoMA”

  1. YES. Someone ought to invite them inside to watch the young people’s videos within the [sh]out exhibition before they join any protest.

    le sigh.

  2. Hi Stuart,

    Thanks for the recent frenzy of blog posts which I working through. Now to the ‘hot’ story… 🙂

    Firstly, going by your first hand account, the protesters were protesting the exhibit and not the exhibitors. Quite sure this type of protest would have happened for anyone else doing the same. Again this is by your brief account in the above post, if they were directly protesting the exhibitors, then we probably agree they were seriously misdirecting their protest.

    Secondly, you seem to be picking on the single issue in play here and supernaturally know the protesters heart’s on war, poverty, slavery etc. That’s like assuming because the last SB podcast was about U2 that you 3 guys who produce it don’t care about racism. Of course you do, but that was just the topic of the day! 🙂 God’s Word is a great kind gift of a loving Father and worth protesting.

    I agree – the Bible is a great book – the greatest. It is also very inclusive already. All are levelled (including the filthy wretch of a sinner typing this!) as guilty before God. We each/I have a huge fine to pay which no good works can pay off. Who has never told a lie? ‘All liars have their part in the lake of fire’. We can all be in God’s inclusive plan if we humble our hearts, repent of our sin and put our trust in Jesus alone.

    Look forward to more podding + blogging from you – thanks for taking the time to do it.

    Take care,

  3. Thank you both for your comments!

    Davy, good to hear from you. I think what was confusing about the protest was that the artist had already asked for the Bible to be covered so people couldn’t write on it. Her intention was never for people to deface it, just to write their names in the margin.

    You’re right about my judging the people who were there and I try not to. They were the same people who were outside the General Assembly protesting issues of sexuality and perhaps it is coincidence that this exhibit is part of a show by the LGBT community.

    Thanks for the encouragement with the blogging and podcasting. It’s appreciated.


  4. I’ve had the opportunity to informally poll some people who’ve heard about this piece of art so-called, and it’s obvious that sexuality is a second- or third-order concern here. What was getting their goat was the vandalism of a holy book as part of an ongoing wave of institutional discrimination against Christianity.

    The Bible is and remains a history of the revelation of God to mankind, not an exclusive revelation but the primary revelation and the standard by which all other claims must be discerned. Now on the matter of the artist’s intent, I suggest that the artists and the vandals (I use the latter term deliberately) don’t understand that the Bible is already universal in scope; I was going to say that human pride is the only thing that generates a perception that they are excluded or marginalised, but even in that prideful state the Bible still records barbs directed at such individuals. In point of fact, the picture of the church as a body is a panacea of diversity and inclusion, not the crude euphamisms that have fuelled the wave of outright discrimination against orthodox Christians.

    Stuart, I am concerned that you seem to be projecting motiviation on these protesters rather than actually finding out what drives them. It was evident from the interviews on Reporting Scotland last night that respect for a holy book and sponsored discrimination against Christians were, like my informal respondents, not focussing on LGTBT issues. The interviewees in the report were calm, articulate and ordinary. I think by passing judgement on them you do them a disservice. People such as these are working on the raw edge of Christian liberty.

  5. I just do not see how Christian liberty is impinged at all by works of art. Artists in Western society are not part of the state, indeed they fiercely safeguard their liberty of thought. How does it in any way distract from my ability to read the Bible, worship in a congregation, or pray, or make moral decisions if a Bible somewhere is having graffiti scrawled over it? (Even if that were the intent of the artist which we can see it was not)
    The Bible is not the primary revelation of God, that is and was Jesus Christ.

  6. As much of the thoughtful opinion and arguement is already here all I much have to add to it is a thought provoking little musical ditty from Tim Minchin…

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