Jon McNaughton Jumps the Snake

Jon McNaughton Jumps the Snake August 25, 2017



I try to respect other people. I do. I’m not good at it, but I try.

I try to respect others’ convictions, as well. I have friends who are atheists, Protestants, Jews. I disagree with them on any number of things, but whenever possible I try to respect them by honoring our common ground instead of being an ass about our differences.

I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Mormons and what they believe, so if there is some tenet of the faith of the Latter-Day Saints that says they have to revere the president of the United States as fulfilling a prophecy from Genesis, I apologize, I don’t mean to knock your religion. But I just have to sputter for a moment. I’ve discovered the most blasphemous painting I’ve ever seen including Chris Ofili’s vaginas-and-elephant-crap Madonna.

I give you “You Are Not Forgotten,” by the Mormon painter Jon McNaughton.

Due to some shady outfit calling itself Copyright Law, I can’t copy and paste the painting into my blog post; you’re going to have to click on the link. Use the built-in magnifying glass to play “What’s Wrong With This Picture.” I’ll wait right here.

For those of you who haven’t clicked yet, “You Are Not Forgotten” is a vignette painted in Jon McNaughton’s usual style, which I would characterize as trying to be a more political Norman Rockwell but ending up making all the faces too shiny. The painting portrays the front lawn of the White House, where wounded veterans, military personnel in dress uniforms, white police officers, the vice president and one raggedy orphan girl are gathered in an awkward half-circle applauding as two hobos water a weed on the sidewalk. Vice President Pence has a mustache for some reason, but I think that’s the fault of McNaughton’s not being able to paint light reflecting off a human face. Everyone looks like they walked through an automatic doughnut-glazer before posing for this painting.

What’s so blasphemous about that, you ask? Aesthetically offensive, yes, but where’s the blasphemy?

I’ve left out the worst part. Next to the glossy hobos, directly in front of a black guy and blocking his view, stands President Donald J. Trump. Trump gestures toward the hobos as as if he bid them garden his sidewalk for the entertainment of the throng. And Trump is crushing the head of a snake with his dress shoe.

He is posed almost exactly like the Virgin Mary in your average kitschy Fatima Apparition painting.  He’s making a sort of pouty face. I want to make fun of the fact that McNaughton flattered him by painting his notoriously tiny hands the size of his entire head– but the fact is, everyone in the painting has over-sized hands, so the joke doesn’t work. And did I mention that HE’S CRUSHING THE HEAD OF A SNAKE WITH HIS DRESS SHOE?

I note, with some amusement, that the serpent Trump is crushing looks to be a blacksnake, which is a snake that is non-venomous, good for the environment and keeps the rat population under control, rather than a rattler or any other American snake that could harm anyone; but I don’t think McNaughton thought that part of his painting through. What McNaughton did on purpose is to pose Trump STANDING ON TOP OF A SNAKE. All that’s missing is the customary apple in the snake’s mouth. Maybe the president ate it while everyone else was getting glazed.

Now, people are going to say that this only offends me because I’m a perverse and sinful anti-Trumpist. I have made no secret of the fact that I’m not a Republican and am deeply opposed to most of the political views of President Trump, because of my faith and not in spite of it, but that’s entirely beside the point. I would be sickened to see Hillary Clinton, whom I didn’t like very much either, portrayed posed like Our Lady of Fatima and standing on a snake. I would be sickened to see Bernie Sanders posed like Our Lady and standing on a snake, and I actually thought Sanders was an honorable man (though I strongly disagreed with him on several things). I’m trying to think of a politician in American history I actually flat-out admire and coming up empty… I know Lincoln wasn’t the spotless hero he’s sometimes cracked up to be, but I like Lincoln. I would be horrified to see Lincoln treading on the serpent. Ditto for Roosevelt running over the serpent with his wheelchair. Same for an American I love, like Harriet Tubman or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I wouldn’t even like to see the Pope portrayed standing on top of a snake in that graceful, casual way.

You often see Saint Michael the Prince of the Heavenly Host standing on a serpent, but he’s all armored and has a sword, and usually looks like there was a fight first. There is only one person who’s supposed to stand at graceful ease, ladylike, heel casually grinding into the dead snake, gesturing at somebody else with her humble solicitude–and she usually does it barefoot, not in black dress shoes.

The person who is supposed to be painted posing like that on top of a snake, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the God-bearer, the queen of Heaven crowned by our Lord, the vessel through which He came to us and crushed the serpent. No earthly kingdom will stand against her Divine Son. To pose a leader of a human government on top of a snake in just that way is to spit in the face of Catholicism. McNaughton could have portrayed his hero crushing evil in a million other ways, if he had any imagination, but he chose to pose Trump exactly like the Theotokos and stand him on top of a serpent. He must have known what he was doing.

“I want a president that will crush the enemies of liberty, justice, and American prosperity,” says McNaughton in his description of the painting.  “They may have the power to bruise his heal, but he will have the power to crush their head!”

Yes, he said “heal” instead of heel.

And yes, he used the Genesis quote. He’s deliberately inserting a human figure into the slot where only Our Lord can go. Our Lord crushed the serpent. He could have come through any vessel He wished, but He chose the vessel of Our Lady, the New Eve. Through Our Lady’s obedience, came the dawn of the Sun of Justice and our liberty. I don’t know how Our Lord and Lady feel about American prosperity, considering whom Americans usually have to run over to prosper. But they’re all for true justice and real freedom, the kind of justice and freedom that would make any staunch American politician from the Right or the Left uncomfortable, let alone a greedy cad like Trump.

I wonder if the Catholic League is going to give McNaughton a hard time, the way they did to Chris Ofili and the guy who carved the chocolate Jesus, but I won’t be holding my breath.

(image via Pixabay) 






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