Stanley Spencer didn’t paint violence often, but when he did, as in “Crucifixion,” he focused on our response.
Years ago I belonged to an anti-polygamy activist group. I broke with them when they published a photo of a suspected child molester sleeping with his infant granddaughter on his chest. Yank the troll’s chain all you want, I said, but keep the children out of it.
My friend’s nephew is going to be sentenced for a high-profile crime on Friday. Yesterday his picture was published on a racist website, with frequent bandying of the n-word. He’s an adult and can take it, but they also published photos of his two little boys. Their only offense was the color of their skin.
I sent the link to my programmer husband in the hope that he could identify the host. My husband overcame his revulsion and looked long enough to tell me that there wasn’t an open-or-shut identity. “There is some obfuscation employed,” he said.
Spencer’s “Christ Carrying the Cross,” 1920, is an image of bystanders enjoying someone else’s misfortune.
Beyond that, all I can do is to pray that God strikes the server with lightning and counsel my friends to ignore it. That’s easier said than done, I realize.
I am blessed with many friends. They are, on the whole, civilized people. “I hate that guy” is empty verbiage to us. I’m always shocked when I hear about real hateful behavior. And yet, if you believe our crime statistics, it’s not only all around us, but it’s increasing.
This week’s incident is race-based, but it isn’t always. Several years ago, my friend’s son was arrested for second-degree murder. The lad was (rightfully) acquitted, but that didn’t stop him from receiving death threats. His family—innocent in every respect—had to sell their home and moved to a different town.
“Knowing (the Beatitudes of Love),” Stanley Spencer
In some cases, the dangerous places we live are physical. In others, violence is a mental climate, fed in part by media and the internet. It’s a pity that these have become vectors for lies and hatred, because they have been a boon in so many ways.
The people who published those little boys’ picture obfuscated their service provider because they have been reported before. They know what they’re doing is wrong. My friend would like them to creep back under the rock from which they crawled, but to me that is only a short-term solution. They’ll just crawl back out somewhere else.
None of this can be blamed on the election or any other outside force. People choose to hate, just as they can choose to love.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said.
Sir Stanley Spencer was a true naïf whose innocence was much abused. And yet his reactions to love and violence were very much along the lines of those suggested by Jesus. It’s why he is one of my favorite painters.
“I love them from within outwards and whatever that outward appearance may be it is an exquisite reminder of what is loved within, no matter what that exterior appearance may be,” Spencer said.
Is love really too much to ask?