April 2008
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Billie Silvey
I loved many of the statues in Italy, particularly the
Michelangelos. But some statues seemed overdone to the eyes
of a woman who’s grown up seeing God in the simplicity
and practicality of houses of worship in the Restoration
tradition.

Perhaps it’s the strictures against idolatry that make me
question the place of sculpture in the church.  Or the sense that
money should be spent on helping people instead of decorating
churches.  Or maybe it’s just that, for me, the spiritual is
better expressed in non-material ways.  I am more likely to see
God in a person who’s lived close to him than in a statue,
no matter how well carved.
Sculpture and
Religion
Only God can really make his creation come alive, and he did
when he made us.  James Weldon Jackson used the image of a
sculptor  God in his majestic poem,
The Creation:

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Pygmalion was a Greek king who
carved a statue of a woman and
then fell in love with her.  
Aphrodite, the goddess of love,
brought her to life as Galatea.

Much later, George Bernard Shaw
wrote a play entitled
Pygmalion,
about a gentleman, Henry Higgins,
who bets he can turn a cockney
flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a
lady. It was later filmed as
My
Fair Lady
with Audrey Hepburn
and Rex Harrison.
When we were in Italy, we saw a lot of statues, many on religious
themes.  Many were remarkably lifelike, like Michelangelo's
Pietà  
below, but none was really alive.
Muslims agree.  God in Islam is
abstract and can’t be
represented by objects or
depictions.  That’s why
mosques are decorated with
calligraphy and geometric or
botanic forms.  They can still be
quite expensive, though, like the
King Fahad Mosque near my
home which was built by a
Saudi prince for $2.16 million..
History of Sculpture
Arthur Williams