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