As far as I can remember I have only once been to a professional football game (American football).
It was, from what I have been told, a really good game and it had this last-second turn-around and people talked about it for a few days.
But what has stuck with me (for, having only been to one football game, I’m not exactly an expert on the subtleties and/or nuances of the sport itself) were the overweight (calling it like it is), middle-aged, suburban white dudes sitting all around me.
They were experts on the game, I guess, judging from the way they talked (eye roll). They all talked with that authoritative tone that guys sometimes use to mansplain.
It was ridiculous.
I remember at one point one of the players had thrown the ball but some other guy hadn’t run enough or hadn’t caught it or something.
And these guys were like, in their condescending tones, “That was the wrong play, what I would’ve done was _____.”
And I was thinking to myself, “Oh REALLY? REALLY?? You, fat forty-something-year-old, are going to look at these athletes and tell them what they’re doing wrong? Do you HONESTLY think you could do any better? I’d LOVE to see you get on that field and try to run faster than ANY of them. I’ve love to see you try to run that far. I’d love to see you try to throw that far, that fast, with that accuracy.”
I mean, the Lions aren’t exactly a great football team, but COME ON NOW, these smug, chunky dudes who work in offices all week long sure as heck aren’t going to do any better.
(Not that paying to see that wouldn’t be fun).
(Maybe it wouldn’t, though. I happen to dislike watching people fail. I can’t do it.)
ENTER TODAY’S TOPIC.
Behold, thou: art.
Ah, ye olde thankless task of making something that no one likes. Such is the work of an artist.
Let me let you in on something: art (like sport, perhaps) is super easy to criticize. Why? Because it can’t defend itself. And it’s WAY easier to say, “I don’t like that” than it is to actually create something. That’s a fact.
So. Over the weekend, ye olde Archdiocese of Detroit rolled out a new coat of arms.
My initial reactions don’t count, so maybe I don’t care to mention them.
The fallout, though. The fallout.
Suddenly, everyone is an artist. Or, rather, an art critic. And everyone would have done this a different way. And, in the imaginations of those criticizing, everything they would have made would have been better and brighter and practically pulled people into pews.
Watch my eyes roll into the back of my head.
Apparently this new design is not historic enough. It’s not holy enough. It’s not traditional enough. It’s not explained well enough. And on and on and on.
Yo, people of God, I feel like this needs to be stated strongly: NO. ONE. CARES.
No one, no one, no one cares. No one. No one cares. These people we’re trying to reach? The mission field? THEY. DON’T. CARE.
The people in your life who have no relationship with Jesus and are thirsty for eternal life DO NOT CARE about the fact that a shield used to look one way and now looks another way.
Your secular peeps, scrolling Facebook and looking for life aren’t going to look at one shield over another and say, “Man, I should get my rear back in church,” they’re rather going to see panties in a bunch over gosh darn NOTHING and think, “Man, I’m glad I’m not a part of that SENSELESS DRAMA.”
Yeah, drama. Calling it like it is.
Do you want to play an exercise? Sometimes you can pretend like you’re writing a target market and you can make up a life and a name and a scenario for someone. I’m going to do this.
Think about a person who went to Catholic school for all 12 years, and maybe goes to church on Christmas because Grandma still says it’s important. Do you think that person gives a care if the coat of arms changed? Hint: THEY DON’T. Honestly, they’ll never see it. Almost a guaranteed never.
Think about a person who maybe goes to church on Sundays but not a whole lot more and maybe leaves after communion sometimes, if the weather is nice and the homily was long and boring…do you think they care? Hint: THEY DON’T. The odds that they’ll see it are higher, but they’re not going to really make an impact here.
Think about the brides and grooms who call my church on the regular, looking for a place to get married, and mine looks real nice in photos, oh, and also they’ve been living together for the past 5-10 years…do you think they care? Hint: THEY DON’T.
We can go down the line, here. A line of people absolutely empty without the beauty of Jesus and we’ve got a pocket of Internet in a tizzy because a picture of antlers is now a picture of a door.
GET. OVER. IT.
Honestly, I feel like the Catholic Internet would have been presented with the flipping TILMA WITH OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE back in 1531 and we would have said it wasn’t holy enough and too busy graphically and not traditional enough (who ever heard of a mixed race Mary?? *gasp gasp gasp*) and also not youthful enough because THE YOUTH, man (praying hands are so so so passé, good golly) and also probably outdated in a year or two. Humph.
Please rescue me. My eyes keep rolling.
I once was driving through my blessed city of Detroit with someone. There is an art installation that’s kind of crazy in one of the neighborhoods, mostly just a guy painting junk in bright, bright colors and leaving it everywhere in this neighborhood, and this fellow I was with didn’t like it, and he told me later (I forgot the story, honestly), that in the midst of his criticism, I turned to him and said, “Well–what kind of art would you make?”
And he didn’t have an answer.
This is what I’m afraid of: in the bandwagon of, “Let’s all criticize this art,” we forget that there are actually super important missions to be started and chores to be completed and really rude people to love. It’s fun to tear down. The Archdiocese is trying to build. I can respect that.
I can also hear someone say, “But I know enough to know it’s BAD.” Okay. Awesome. Good for you. Gold star.
Let’s say we watch this gif of a guy doing gymnastics. Homeboy makes a mistake. I can point that out to you. Want to know what else? I sure as heck can’t move my body like that for even a little bit. It’s not perfect, but he is working way harder than I am sitting here in my yoga pants and typing my life away after a night of eating pasta.
I’m trying to say a few things, I guess. One of them is that it’s really easy to criticize, like those heavyset men at a professional game. It’s easy to say, “I would do better,” but, honestly, (let’s be real) 98% of us COULD. NOT. do better. Don’t pretend like you could. (If you could, then you can email the Archdiocese, and if it blows them away/ is anointed by the Holy Spirit…maybe they’ll take you up on the offer. Thing is…I don’t see that happening.)
Another thing is that I’m seeing reactions from basically one crowd. In the interest of calling it like it is: it’s essentially the really-devout Catholic-folk. Thing is…most of the other people in the world don’t care. This could be the sacred face of Jesus seared on a cloth and people wouldn’t care. Worry less about the drama of infighting, and more about the people who are looking for relationships and compassion and truth…and I’d encourage us to invest our energy there. (Says the woman writing a 1800 word essay on it). (Pray for my hypocrisy). (Honestly, though. You should).
Let’s play pretend for one hot second. Let’s pretend that the new coat of arms was the old coat of arms, and that the old coat of arms is now the new one. Do you think everyone would be happy? I doubt it. Royally doubt it. Probably we’d hear a wazoo of complaints about what do antlers have to do with Jesus and do martlets even exist in real life? If I have learned anything in life, though, it has been: people will complain about literally everything. And anything. Don’t fall into the trap.
I. GET. IT. that art is important. Super important. Through the grace of God I work in a church full of amazing, historic, irreplaceable art where people (even the unchurched) are often MOVED TO TEARS over the stained glass. To tears, okay? But, you know what? That has less to do with the stained glass and more to do with the Holy Spirit, present because of the faithfulness of people throughout the ages. To be honest, the church is crumbling a bit. The stained glass needs work…it’s fading. The plaster is falling apart. But people are still moved to tears. Is the art important? YES. I say it is in all caps. But more important are our prayers. More important is our welcome. More important is us opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit–learning, growing, changing, leaning in, as it were.
Do you want my honest reaction? I saw the new Coat of Arms first on Saturday night. I had worked a long day (yeah, a Saturday), only getting off at 9:30 p.m. I had made my way to the Cathedral and was helping a friend put away chairs and sound equipment through the church and up some narrow, winding steps. The new Coat of Arms was near the steps. I looked at it, my arms full of sound system cords. I was a little startled by the logo-ness of the thing, started to wonder if it was a good decision…realized that my liking or disliking it wasn’t a big deal either way, and continued walking up the stairs with the sound equipment.
Make a decision if you want. Make a judgement call. But, in the end, move on. There’s a lot of work to be done. Pray for the Archbishop, the Archdiocese, and me. Criticize less. Build more. It’s just a Coat of Arms. We’re going to be fine.