Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On the side of the angels...

This image above, borrowed via the Czech site 'Navajo' from Wikipedia, has this as its caption "A modern depiction of Satan before his fall." No artist's name appears to grace this work of kitsch, but I wonder if the artist intended this as the first of a before-and-after series. If so, I also wonder how Satan would be depicted in his fallen state.

Most of all, though, I wonder why this unfallen Satan looks like a young Billy Graham:

You can see the original of this image, along with several others, at Sermon Index (2005). Here's the same photo, but with shoulders and partial torso:

And from Time Magazine (June 14, 1999), here's another image useful for comparison:

And from Religion & Ethic Newsweekly (June 24, 2005), we find another useful photo to compare:

The resemblance is uncanny, but perhaps intended (in which case, canny).

I've already openly wondered how the kitsch artist who depicted Satan would have depicted a fallen Satan. Similarly, I wonder what a fallen Billy Graham would look like. Crestfallen?

About three years ago in a Sunday school class, I heard someone refer to allegations that Graham had made antisemitic comments. That had surprised me because I had only ever heard him praise the Jews as God's chosen people.

I finally took the time to look into this issue and learned that Graham's comments had come in a conversation with President Richard Nixon that the latter had secretly taped. Here's what the BBC News (March 2, 2002) has:
In the taped conversation, Mr Graham said the Jewish "stranglehold" on the media "has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain".

"You believe that?" Nixon replies.

"Yes, sir."

"Oh boy. So do I. I can't ever say that but I believe it," Nixon says.

"If you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something," Mr Graham replies.

Later in the conversation, when Nixon raises the subject of Jewish influence in Hollywood, Mr Graham says: "A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth, but they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them."
That's pretty damning. How does Graham 'explain' it?
"Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon some 30 years ago," Mr Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm.

"They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologise for any offence caused by the remarks," he said, adding that he had spent his life building bridges between Jews and Christians.
I find this insufficient. While I can imagine that Graham might not recall a specific conversation from 1972, the specific details of his remarks to Nixon imply that he held strong though usually unexpressed views about a putative Jewish 'stranglehold' on the media that was sending the country "down the drain." Even if Graham doesn't remember the conversation with Nixon, surely he can recall views that his taped remarks imply were strongly held.

John Milton, who has himself been portrayed as the devil, presented us in Paradise Lost with a Satan that looks a lot like us -- or how we would like to appear if we were bigger than life. One 'wit' on the internet has brief photo essay (November 7, 1999) to 'prove' that Billy Graham is Satan.

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the anonymous author presents Gawain as a model of Christian piety and knightly courtesy, a man to emulate. Yet, he falls for a winsom woman and chivalrously accepts a gift that turns out to be a test of his integrity, for in accepting the gift, he breaks his devotion to the Virgin Mary and his word to the Lord of the Manor where he has received hospitality. When he realizes what he has done, he privately puts much of the blame on women:
But 'tis no marvel if one be made a fool and brought to sorrow by women's wiles, for so was Adam beguiled by one, and Solomon by many, and Samson all too soon, for Delilah dealt him his doom; and David thereafter was wedded with Bathsheba, which brought him much sorrow--if one might love a woman and believe her not, 'twere great gain! And since all they were beguiled by women, methinks 'tis the less blame to me that I was misled! (SKGK, translated by Jessie L. Weston, Lines 2414-2428)
Graham received a lot of very postitive publicity in the media over the years -- a gift, one might say, but also a test of character. Gawain failed his test, and blamed women, yet the anonymous author doesn't portray Gawain as an evil man but merely as a flawed if otherwise exemplary man.

Maybe that's Graham: a flawed if otherwise exemplary man.

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At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't your e-mail box full now?
i sent you e-mail twice, but it returned..
after you see this comment, i'll delete this. sorry for writing in your privite blogㅠㅠ

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, since you don't say who you are, I have no idea which of my 150 students you are. You'd better check the address that you sent to and make sure that it's right. Check it against my email address on the syllabus that you have for my class.

My email box has no danger of filling up.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't ever remember reading that about Graham, and so I particularly appreciate your bringing this fascinating tidbit up.

I wonder how Graham was able to get away with this without it causing a ruckus.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nathan, there are probably four reasons that he didn't suffer too much:

1. He has consistently supported Israel's right to exist.

2. Some thirty years had elapsed since the statement was uttered.

3. His statement was apparently an isolated one.

4. He immediately offered an apparently sincere apology.

Probably his being an old man when the news came out also played a role in the leniency with which he was treated.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:05 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Very interesting post about a public face, the way things look. Politicians and preachers are similar in their need to filter some of their strongest opinions. Some things just can't be said. This is my problem with the numerical gap between constituents and representatives. There's a bandwidth problem. The public nature of the channel allows sniping and snooping and nobody can speak their minds. Distorted thinking results. Instead of such a high level closet plot, there should be a million lower level conversations where people with different interests are forced to find accommodation. Wisdom can filter up the network in an honest atmosphere rather than self-selected "faces" having to trick us into doing the supposedly right thing.

I don't have a artists eye, but the resemblence is not that clear to me. I'm guessing it's more likely to be a case of stereotype convergence. Graham succeeded partially because of his looks. He fit the image. The artist may have been searching for the archetypal Mid-Western holy man, which image has no doubt been influenced by the Rev. Graham. The subconscious mind can be amazing.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JJ Mollo, the bloggers are making up for the little bandwith problem.

As for Graham and that image of the unfallen Satan, I think that if one grew up seeing images of Billy Graham -- as I did -- then the resemblance appears stronger. I first tried to find an image that conveyed the resemblance exactly but couldn't, so I then tried the shotgun approach, hoping that one of them would hit the target.

Perhaps none did.

I had half-expected to be inundated with hostile comments from fans of Graham angry at my post, but not many people have posted here, and none hostile.

Jeffery Hodges

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