by Tim Mooney
As a visual artist and Presbyterian pastor, I’m interested in expressing the sacred story visually. For several years now, I’ve been imagining creating a piece of art that would embody some of the sacred story of America. A few months ago, a prominent gallery in Denver offered me space to tell such a story.
So I’m making an American Flag. A big one. Twenty-four feet by thirteen feet. I’m making it out of Bibles and Bibles with Apocrypha, Korans and Talmuds and Torahs, Sutras and Vedic Scriptures, Books of Mormon and New Age texts. I am making it out of the foundational texts that represent the religious traditions and beliefs of America. Because we are all in this together, side-by-side, like books on a shelf. Because our beliefs affect the world.
The American Flag is iconic; it stands for who we are and reminds us who we can be. It is used to rally us for justice; it is used to hide injustice. We separate Church and State, but we believe in our faiths and in America.
The art installation is a powerful picture of who we are. All sizes, shapes, and colors, new and worn out, read and unread, only one meaning to limitless meanings, interpreted in as many ways as we have names. What do we believe, how do we believe, and what does it mean to live together as a country of believers and beliefs? What does it mean to see the American Flag, to see us, this way? A picture is worth a thousand words.
This American Flag art installation will gain much of its iconic power by being made with your sacred texts, texts that have been read, underlined, memorized, argued-over, and loved by you.
Based on the size of the installation and the percentages in the most recent PEW report on Religion in America, I will need 2000 Bibles, 1000 Bibles with Apocrypha, 40 Sutras, 70 Books of Mormon, 70 Torahs/Talmuds, 25 Korans, 20 Vedic texts, 28 writings of Jehovah Witnesses, 20 New Age texts, 15 Native American texts, 10 Pagan texts, 65 Atheist writings, and 250 books representing non-affiliated persons.
If you would like to donate texts to this project please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will especially need texts that are white in color. Another way you can participate is to digitally record a 30 -second prayer or hope for our country based in your own deepest beliefs, whether that is religious, secular, etc., and send it as an MP3 to me. These recordings will run on an audio loop during the flag installation, giving “voice” to the many traditions represented by the books.
I’ll be blogging about my progress on this sacred flag every week here at Faith Forward until the installation goes live. I hope you will join me in this creative venture of faith.
Rev. Timothy J. Mooney is a Presbyterian Pastor, Spiritual Director, and a Fine Artist. Much of Rev. Mooney’s artwork has been created for and in various liturgical settings. His work can be seen at www.timmooneystudio.com.