In the desert town of Lancaster, California, I once attended a silent auction fundraiser for a charity, and was so struck by the fairly large (28 x 24 inches) painting above that I took what for me then was quite a leap, and bid $80.00 on it. Weirdly enough (to me anyway), no one else bid on the painting. When I went to pay for it afterwards, I was told the painting was by the boxer Muhammad Ali, who had also autographed it.
Who knew The Greatest was a painter? And judging from this picture, I know, many would argue that he’s not. But I very much like this painting. It’s informed by a direct and elemental power that I find moving.
Some fifteen years after acquiring this picture, I became a Christian. Then I wondered if it was right for me to leave hanging in my house Ali’s painting, which pretty explicitly celebrates Islam. But then I thought, “Who cares? Islam isn’t the enemy of Christianity. Evil is the enemy of Christianity.”
“On the other hand,” I thought, “many Christians think Islam is downright evil. This painting hanging in my house will drive at least some of my new Christian friends crazy. But so what? Art is art. Soul is soul. If anyone has a problem with this great painting, they can talk to me about it—which would make, actually, for a good and even important conversation. In any event, in the name of religion I’m not turning my back on art that I love. Then I’d be exactly the kind of person I think the world needs a lot fewer of.”
So that’s how it came down for me. How about you? If you’re a Christian (and you liked the painting, if you don’t), would you hang it in your house?