Ohio school district promotes non-religious Christianity
Yet another example of Christians reducing Jesus to a cultural symbol, drained of any religious or theological context: school administrators in Ohio are refusing to remove a copy of a famous religious painting from a public middle school. In this case, the superintendent claims he can keep displaying the portrait of Jesus because it’s part of the “culture of the community,” and it’s been there since 1947.
This particular image of Jesus has a particular history of being used as “a tribal totem for culture warriors,” to quote Fred Clark. Following millions of printed copies in the 1940s, bigger versions – like the one in the school – were requested by churches and YMCA facilities, and it went on to become an anti-Communist symbol following World War II:
After the war, groups in Oklahoma and Indiana conducted broad campaigns to distribute the picture across private and public spheres. A Lutheran organizer of the effort in Indiana said that there ought to be “card-carrying Christians” to counter the effect of “card-carrying Communists.”
Fred Clark sums it up rather bluntly:
In other words, this isn’t about “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” This is just about pissing on trees to mark our tribal territory. […]
Sallman’s “Head of Christ” can be found in almost every evangelical church in America. It is a popular, iconic, beloved image of Jesus for millions of American Christians. Yet defenders of having the painting in a public school argue that this devotional icon of Jesus Christ has no sectarian meaning.
This is why the separation of church and state is vitally important for Christians. When Christians are standing around arguing that Jesus Christ has no particular religious significance to us, then something has gone horribly wrong.
Last month, I wrote about how I see this as part of a larger trend:
This subset of Christians is so obsessed with dominating and subjugating their tribal opponents that they are willing to sacrifice the religious significance of their symbols to score political victories.
Apparently I can add iconography to the list of things that have been drained of their religious significance for the purpose of “pissing on trees” – including the cross, the créche/nativity scene, and benedictions and other public prayers.