“Defacing” the Bible? Art and Religion

Posted on by Brooke

As a teacher of seminarians, I have enough trouble getting some of them even to annotate the margins of their Bibles with Hebrew parsing notes. So I was glad to see that The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow

…has invited art lovers to write their thoughts down in an open Bible on display as part of its Made in God's Image exhibition.

The placard next to the Bible instructs visitors thusly:
"If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it".

The linked article takes a decidedly negative view of the display. It is titled, “Gallery Invites Visitors to Deface the Bible”: this presupposes that any writing in a Bible is inappropriate. Further, the article cites only comments that it considers offensive or provocative.

Let’s look at the article’s first examples of so-called “abuse and obscenity”:
"This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all," one message read.

"I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this".

See that the writer of the article chose the feminist and LGBT comments as the flagship examples of “abuse and obscenity.” These are strongly worded, to be sure, but for my part, I do not find them abusive or obscene (and as a straight male, I am not at all convinced that I am in a position to judge the appropriateness of these expressions of complaint). Some other visitors were more obviously mocking or obscene in their comments.

What is your view, O reader? Tell me in a comment: In what ways do you find the exhibit exciting or problematic, both in its conception and in how visitors have responded? Would you feel differently if it were some other sacred text instead of the Bible? (The Quran? A Torah scroll? The Constitution or Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights?) What do you think of public art exhibits that challenge sectarian sensibilities in this way?