A question: Do you remember the title of your blog post in which you argued, if I recall correctly, that the Taliban damage to the Buddha statues would be evil -- or ought not to take place -- even if nobody ever got to know about it? I also recall dimly that the post was a reply to Peter Lupu. Is the post still online, somewhere?
Vlasta, I believe you are referring to this post. It was a response, not to Peter Lupu, but to Mike Valle. (I had the pleasure of their company at Sunday breakfast yesterday.)
Here is how the post begins:
This by e-mail from a doctoral student in Canada:
I am writing to you because I have a couple of questions . . . about your recent (May 12) blog post, and I was curious to hear a bit more about your views. [. . .] My questions concern your assertion that "I also agree that if one is going to violate people's beliefs in the manner of that 'artist' Andres Serrano then one ought to do it on one's own time and with one's own dime, as the saying goes." I assume that you're referring to "Piss Christ" and the controversy that surrounded it.
That's right. Context is provided by Mike Valle's post to which I was responding.
1. Why do you feel that "Piss Christ" (or Serrano's other works--again, I assume you're referring here mostly to the religious icons and bodily fluids) is (are) a "[violation] of people's beliefs"? The claim that it "violates beliefs" is much stronger than simply saying that it is distasteful, since it ascribes an active quality to the work.
Of course, it is more than distasteful or disgusting, although it is that; it shows profound disrespect and contempt for Christianity. And it is not the work itself that violates the beliefs and sensibilities of Christians and plenty of non-Christians as well, but the work in the context of its production and public display. It should be offensive to any decent person, just as "Piss-Buddha," if there were such an 'art work,' would be offensive to me and other non-Buddhists. Buddha was a great teacher of humanity and should be honored as such. (That is why decent people were offended when the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhist statuary.) The same goes for Jesus and Socrates and so many others. Christians of course believe that Jesus was much more than a great teacher of humanity, but whether he was or not is immaterial to the point at issue. Or imagine "Piss-King" in which a figurine of Martin Luther King, Jr. is supended in urine. Everyone would take that, and rightly so, as expressive of contempt for the black American civil rights leader, as offensive as Southern racists' references to King back in the '60s as Martin Luther Coon.
The decadent art of the 20th century reflects not only the corruption of aesthetic sensibility but also a moral corruption. So my objection to Serrano is not merely aesthetic but moral. The purpose of art is not to debase but to elevate, refine, ennoble.
[. . .]