So, if you read a news report about a politician who did something really stupid or really bad — illegal even — what is the first question that would leap into your mind?
Right. You’d want to know what kind of politician, what brand of politician, the story was talking about. Ditto for all kinds of other cultural figures, from scholars, to musicians, to business people or to any other kind of work frequented by a wide variety of people who believe a wide variety of different things.
Thus, a former GetReligionista emailed us the URL for an interesting New York Times piece, but it’s a piece with a rather strange hole in the middle of its facts. The headline:
Pastor Who Tried to Sell Fake Damien Hirst Paintings Is Sentenced to 6 Months
Nothing all that unusual there, methinks. But let’s move on to take a look at the top of the story:
A Florida pastor who was convicted of trying to sell fake Damien Hirst paintings to an undercover police officer was sentenced on Monday to six months in jail and five years of probation.
Justice Bonnie G. Wittner of State Supreme Court in Manhattan said a jail sentence was warranted because the pastor, Kevin Sutherland, had chosen to sell the works to a person he believed was a New York collector shortly after the Sotheby’s auction house said one of the paintings could not be authenticated.
Nothing usual so far, right?
But before we proceed, let’s pause and ask — for unenlightened folks who live far from New York City — a relevant question: Who is Damien Hirst and why is the term “enfant terrible” so frequently attached to his name in modern-art circles? And, oh, what is the postmodern theological statement attached to that dead Tiger Shark at the top of this post?
That question rather answers itself, with a bit of reading. However, once you have surfed through some of the links in that Google search, many GetReligion readers will be inspired to ask another logical, and I would say journalistic, question: What kind of pastor would be attracted into Hirst territory and might have connections to people who would want to purchase fake copies of his work?
In other words: What brand of pastor are we talking about in this story?
Apparently, this was not a question that entered the minds of the urban elites employed at the Times copy desk. Perhaps all of the pastors that they know admire and collect Hirst?
At no point in the story is the Rev. Kevin Sutherland linked to any particular denomination or religious tradition. Instead readers are told things like this:
Prosecutors said Mr. Sutherland had not only tried to rid himself of paintings he knew were forged, but tried to sell them at a profit. They asked for a prison sentence of between one and three years.
“This crime was motivated by greed,” said Rachel Hochhauser, an assistant district attorney. “He did more than try to pass on his financial loss. He tried to get a windfall from it.”
But Mr. Sutherland’s lawyer, Sam Talkin, argued that his client had no criminal past and should receive probation. He portrayed the crime as “an isolated detour from an otherwise law-abiding life.”
Apparently the pastor has no past of any kind. As the former GetReligionista noted: “It’s like saying ‘a politician’ or ‘a doctor’ without any more detail.”
Why omit this detail? I would be interested in hearing calm, level-headed theories offered by readers in our comments pages. My own theory? I have hinted at it in the “categories” tag for the piece.
IMAGE: Yes, of course. It’s the famous Hirst work — a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde — called “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.”