Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Antisemitism and the Image of Judas

I attended a fascinating forum here at the seminary today on the major changes that have just been made here at VTS to the "Betrayal of Jesus by Judas Window" in our campus chapel. The forum was led by Peggy Parker, artist and adjunct professor and Kate Sonderegger, VTS Professor of Theology. Kate discovered the antisemitic portrayal of Judas in the first window on the left as you enter the north door of our chapel. (The window was a catalog order from a major stained-glass firm in Bavaria, dating from the pre-Nazi era.) In the forum Kate pointed out such features as the green complexion and stereotypical "hooked" nose that reflect a tradition of demonizing Judaism that was later picked up by the Nazis. Here is the original image:

BEFORE

Peggy created a new depiction of Judas for the window, and flew to a stained-glass shop in Iowa to personally help create the new glass piece. It has now been inserted into the window in the chapel. Comments on the image are welcome.

AFTER

The intention is to display the old image fragments in a hallway of the chapel or somewhere on campus, in order that Christians take responsibility for the part of Christian history that represented Jews in this manner, rather than embrace Jesus' Jewishness and identify ourselves in Judas' betrayal.

2 Comments:

Blogger spankey said...

This window was the topic of a conversation I had just the other day. I think Peggy did a fine job with the replacement, but wonder why it was necessary to make the change.

If we are really going to take seriously the sins of our past, anti-semitism, slavery, etc. shouldn't we keep that window right there in the chapel where the community can see it every day as they prepare their "hearts and minds to worship" by confessing their sins; corporate and personal?

I'm guessing there aren't plans to tear down Aspinwall and rebuild it with fairwage laborers and fairtrade, environmentally friendly building materials.

It has the same feel, to me, as racial reconciliation during my time on campus; forced, token, and knee-jerk rather than transformational.

Wed Apr 01, 08:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you for this, Stephen. The point is well taken, and indeed was a big part of the discussion at the forum. The range of positions and arguments was fascinating for me to hear. At one extreme several people spoke passionately for not even allowing the old fragments to be displayed in a side hall of the chapel, they were so offensive. The less extreme version of this position that Kate S. defended was that the chapel is primarily not a museum or memorial space, but a thoughtfully designed and iconic space that should reflect an ideal spiritual orientation on God. To keep the old window in place as it was felt destructive of worship to Kate. In the discussions that she and Peggy held prior to altering the window, one attendee argued that she could never invite all her Jewish friends to her daughter's wedding in the chapel with the window in place as it was. Now, it was interesting that Kate actually had to argue in favor of displaying the old fragments somewhere in or near the chapel. She tried to make a similar point to yours, namely that we should never try to whitewash our history and responsibility as if it did not happen and as if real repentance and transformation were not required. Peggy made a related argument as part of the discussion. She showed a slide of one of those awful "lawn jocey coachman" statues and raised the discussion question of whether if one was found holding up a pew in a contemporary church, the membership would allow it to remain in place as a visible call to confession of corporate and personal sin? I rehearse her argument not necessarily to disagree with you Stephen, but to stimulate further discussion of the vexing issues that you bring up very well. Thanks! ---SLC

Wed Apr 01, 10:39:00 AM GMT-5  

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