O Me of Little Faith

Oh boy. So at his tumblr blog, Trying to Follow, Ariah Fine posted the illustration below and asked for comments. Jesus has suffered quite a few indignities at the hands of Christian artists over the last few decades (I attribute this to “the rise of the Christian bookstore” and “Thomas Kincaid”). But this is perhaps the worst. Please take a deep breath, clear your head, and take this in:

This print is by the artist Stephen Sawyer and is called “Calvary.” You can find out more about it at Art4God.

Yes, Art4God.

I have some questions. And comments. I will now share them with you.

1. You know how we know the dude in the black shirt is a bad dude? Because he is drinking alcohol. And smoking cigarettes. Also he has some joints rolled up in that dish. And a white powder that looks like cocaine. And also a spoon. I’m no drug expert, but I don’t even think spoons are for the powdered kinds of cocaine. I think spoons are for crack. So there’s some crack there, too. We haven’t even gotten to the heroin part yet and already this guy is the Liberace of recreational drug use. (No, I don’t know what that means.)

2. I think this artist is being too subtle about the drugs.

3. Further evidence of the character’s badness: there’s also an empty pill bottle on the table. So he’s not just into street drugs, but prescription ones, too. And he plays cards, which is apparently an evil pastime as well. Also there’s a gun. Bad dudes have guns. And if you’ll look closely, there is a pair of nunchucks hanging from the doorknob. It’s a little-known fact that both Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein had nunchucks hanging from their doorknobs. Furthermore, the paint is peeling off his wall. Bad dudes don’t keep their walls painted.

4. Also, there is a human skull artfully arranged on his side table. I have friends who are police detectives, and I assure you this: when confronted with a murder suspect, the first question they ask is “Do you have a human skull on your side table?” If the suspect answers in the affirmative, nine times out of ten they have found their killer.

5. The only other reason to have a human skull on your side table is if you are an actor performing in Hamlet, and you are playing the character of the gravedigger, and you have taken the skull home as a prop. Alas, poor Yorick.

6. This guy could be Robert Downey, Jr. prior to his rehab.

7. Let’s talk about the physical arrangement of the violent druggie and Jesus. Is the druggie injecting heroin into his own arm or has he tucked his arm into Jesus’ side, which means he is injecting heroin into the arm of Christ?

8. If so, Jesus is a) ripped and b) has some kickin’ tats.

9. Also, the Jewish carpenter from 1st century Palestine is remarkably white, has a well-trimmed beard, and may in fact be a beefed-up Kenny Loggins.

10. Not sure what that handprint is doing on the door. Maybe he works in a print shop and always has dirty hands? Or maybe it suggests his squalor. In case the peeling paint was too subtle.

11. I’m confused as to the meaning of this painting, but I have some ideas. You can help me sort them out by voting on an explanatory caption. Which do you prefer?

A) Jesus took the punishment for sinners on the cross. This includes contemporary drug users, and it looks like it hurt.

B) Jesus identified with the least of these, so when a druggie finds a vein, he has injected the Lord himself with smack.

C) Jesus is with you always, even if you do hard drugs. He’s so close, sometimes you don’t even know whose arm to poke.

D) What started as an innocent piggyback ride turned deadly when, suddenly, Vinnie sat down next to the skull and pulled out his heroin kit.


I’m kidding, of course. It’s too easy to make fun of this painting. But for the life of me, I don’t understand it. What’s the message? And can you GET any more heavy-handed in the depiction of the fallenness of Vinnie the drug user? (Yes, I’m calling him Vinnie.) The only thing missing is a Black Sabbath poster on the wall and a can of Skoal on the table.

If you’ve figured it out, I’d love your explanation.

If you have a print of this painting on your wall, I’d also love your explanation.

UPDATE: Brody Harper has actually met the painter before. He (Brody) was not impressed.

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