Conservatives Attack Smithsonian Art with Religious and HIV/AIDS Theme

December 2, 2010
When the National Portrait Gallery decided to remove a work of art in a gay-themed exhibit that dealt with HIV/AIDS because of objections from conservatives, the Washington Post’s On Faith editor called GLAAD to identify someone who could speak about LGBT issues, faith, HIV/AIDS and the arts. GLAAD religion, faith and values and national news staff reached out to Patrick Evans; assistant professor at Yale Divinity School, a leader among Presbyterians who are moving toward equality.  As an openly gay man, Dr. Evans brought a compelling message of both justice and compassion to challenge conservative efforts to choreograph their next allegations of a so-called “attack on Christianity.” With keen insights into the players, strategies and fundraising ploys of conservatives, Dr. Evans challenged these would-be defenders of the faith to live up to their own religious teachings to serve people in need by giving their proceeds to programs that serve people living with HIV/AIDS.
This is a completely predictable situation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t cooked up on one of the conservative/religious right conference calls.  The usual “war on Christians at Christmas” tactic mixed with the usual “infidel artist” tactic. Wait exactly five minutes and the next place you’ll see this is in the fund-raising appeals of Cantor, Donohue, Beck, et al. The truly ridiculous part is that Christian theology teaches that the tortured, abused body of Christ is God incarnate to experience and understand the deepest of human suffering, including the devastation done to bodies by AIDS.  And some ants crawling on a depiction of that broken, wounded body are really doing worse to Christ than humans did?  Really?  Ants?  Jesus and his followers are afraid of ants on a plaster representation of his body?
You can read his whole piece here, on the Post’s On Faith website. As if to prove Evans right, Republican Representative Jack Kingston from Georgia is now calling for Congress to investigate all funding of the Smithsonian. He said: “This is a museum that gets $5.8 million in taxpayer dollars and in the middle of a high deficit, 15 million unemployed Americans, they decide to have money to spend like this.” The Washington Post reports that taxpayers didn’t actually fund this exhibition: The exhibition, which opened Oct. 30, was funded by the largest number of individual donors for a Portrait Gallery show. The show, which cost $750,000, was also underwritten by foundations that support gay and lesbian issues. Kingston acknowledged the private funding, but still says it should be investigated, saying “They claim that this is not paid for by tax dollars, yet this is a public building with a publicly paid staff, public heat and air-conditioning, if you will, public security. So there’s no question the taxpayers are subsidizing this. It’s no different than the Pentagon going out and paying $500 for a hammer….” Actually, it’s quite different. It’s more like a private individual paying $500 for a hammer, then putting it in a public building.  And it all shows that Evans was spot-on about how this issue would be used by conservatives.