A crucified Jesus appears on what seems to be a fuse box outside a check cashing establishment in East Austin. To the right of the pay phone, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Around to the left, Gandhi. Photo by Barbara Newhall
Gandhi overlooking a parking lot, a front yard Virgin Mary, Jesus on a fuse box. Where am I?
Austin has the reputation of being not your typical Texas town: it’s more liberal and more secular than the rest of this Bible Belt state. Perceptions notwithstanding, there’s plenty of religion going on in Austin. You can see it everywhere, from the street.
Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Evangelicals —
Austin has them all. Here’s what I spotted with my trusty point and shoot, sometimes without even getting out of the car: Whoever loved Guadalupe and Jesus enough to piece together their images on the front of this building seems to have a thing for Mahatma Gandhi as well. Notice the roses, a symbol of Mary. Photo by Barbara Newhall
Outside Austin’s Hindu temple at Radha Madhav Dham, the Godhead expresses itself in the form of Radha Krishna. Devotees say Krishna, left, and Radha, right, are one and the same deity, but appear in two forms in order to pass on bliss through their playful interaction. Photo by Barbara Newhall Guadalupe at the Kleen Wash laundromat. The parking lot mural includes an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11. And, yes, that’s my trusty point-and-shoot in the side mirror. Photo by Barbara Newhall
The Kleen Wash Virgin’s tearful gaze . . . Photo by Barbara Newhall . . . falls on this 9/11 scene. Photo by Barbara Newhall
A sun-faded Guadalupe with a front yard cross and plaque honoring a soldier who died in the Korean War. Photo by Barbara Newhall Another front yard Virgin Mary. One of many in East Austin. Photo by Barbara Newhall
This vast unadorned sanctuary is the main worship space at the new campus of the First Evangelical Free Church of Austin. Plenty of audio-visual equipment for praise music is scattered about. But the room itself doesn’t go in for architectural detail, imagery, art or even color. Some people like their religion this austere. As for me, I prefer the Kleen Wash parking lot . . . Photo by Barbara Newhall . . . and the feet of Radha Krishna. Photo by Barbara Newhall
A version of this post first appeared on BarbaraFalconerNewhall.com, where Barbara writes about life, books, family and her rocky spiritual journey. If you enjoyed this post, you might like “Barbara Brown Taylor — How to Pray? I Wish I Knew.” For more Austin stories go to “Quirky, Lovable Austin.”
Barbara’s book, “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith,” is available from Patheos Press.