Unexpected lessons of an edgy statue of the Virgin Mary

Not that I fancy myself particularly well informed about the history of Islamic art, but one of my pet peeves is when Muslims universalize contemporary prudishness and/or ideological hangups concerning the arts–not to mention impose them on others, Muslim or otherwise–so I found this article in the Biblical Archaeology Review particularly interesting.

It features a nude and very pregnant statue of the Virgin Mary (peace be upon her), split down the middle in the style of an anatomy textbook. The author's discussion of how unexpectedly in keeping with traditional Christian theology (contrary to the "obvious" feelings of disgust or outrage many would feel today) is very stimulating. And indicative, of course, of how unmoored from  their spiritual tradition's enduring values and core principles seemingly "traditional" religious sensibilities can become with the passage of time.

Biblical Views: Virgin Mother in Modern Art with Traditional Christian Values | Biblical Archaeology Review | Bible History Articles

Yes, I know what you are thinking: What on earth possessed the editor of BAR to publish such a disturbing image? Perhaps you are sputtering with outrage at the very idea that the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, could be portrayed half-flayed, with her muscles and part of her skull exposed. But don’t turn the page in disgust too quickly. What I hope to show is that first impressions can be misleading. Sometimes, what at first strikes us as atrocious might even, when viewed in context, end up providing spiritual enrichment—or at least, a nod of understanding. So give me a chance to convince you.


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