Thrifty Kitsch & The Incarnation
This past weekend, while wandering around a church rummage sale, I almost left having only spent three quarters. That is, until I saw it: the most glorious and strangely tacky depiction of Our Lord…on a dinner plate. I keep studying it, and I cannot tell if Jesus is smug, or pissed off, stoned or disinterested, but he certainly doesn’t look Middle Eastern. In fact, he looks kind of like he goes to the same hair stylist that I do. I realize I’m being a bit critical of this particular rendering of Jesus, this work of “art,” but keep in mind, I did buy the thing. In fact, my house is full of similar treasures that are in part a nod to the Divine and on the other hand, just a bit tacky. Don’t believe me? Included in the collection are: a ‘holy toast’ bread stamp, a rubber duck dressed like a Church of England Bishop, dozens of Our Lady jar candles, and, if you didn’t know me but stopped by to, say, borrow a cup of sugar, after walking past the life-sized teaching skeleton dressed in a clerical robe on our front porch, you might be a bit worried.
In the mid-nineties, Joan Osborne wrote a popular song called “One of Us” that was a contemporary rock ponderance of a God in the flesh. In it she sang, “What if God was one of us, just a slum like one of us, just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home?” Ever since the Incarnation, two millennia ago, humans have been trying to imagine Jesus, this God with skin on; the fully divine/ fully human conundrum. Some of this imagination lives in famous basilicas, chapels, museums. Other renderings hang out in our homes, on our tee shirts, in comic books or come through on our headphones. Not all of it qualifies as “high art,” but each piece of this eclectic collection bears witness to the mystery of God coming down to be with us, his creation; even the ironic or kitschy, even my thrift store plate. So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it – hang it on the wall, or, eat Spaghetti-O’s off it. But either way, it is a reminder of something I affirm in my Christian faith. And that is that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
God was one of us, even those of us with strange collections.