symbols and images

Demonic!  Blasphemous!  Anti-Christ!

These are the words that could perfectly sum up the reactions of many people, especially the Catholics, who are deeply offended and angered with Mideo M. Cruz’s art exhibit entitled “Polytheism” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

I saw it myself when I watched XXX, a TV program in ABS-CBN that exposes abuse and corrupt practices in Philippine society.  They get their weekly exposé from concerned citizens who are courageous enough to report the wrongdoings of a particular person or institution and XXX is there to help solve the problem by bringing it to  concerned agencies or people for their awareness and immediate action. Indeed, it was in this show that I discovered the shocking and offensive art work of Cruz which displayed very twisted images of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary decorated with physical representation of Mickey Mouse, a penis, and hanging condoms.  I don’t consider myself religious but it was difficult for me to stomach the product of the said artist’s imagination.  Trying to justify what I saw, I thought maybe he is an atheist, or a Satanist.

Officers of the CCP do not find anything wrong with Cruz’s work. They do have a point when they said that CCP is not a church.  That it is an institution that provides venue for unknown artists and free spirits who wish to display their creativity and self-expression.  Cruz said he knew that his art work is subject for public scrutiny.  He has his own intention of creating it (“They are symbols of ‘patriarchy’ and repression of women”) but it was also his intention to let the viewer be the judge and interpret it according to his/her own wishes, since everyone got different perspectives and he doesn’t wanna impose his way of thinking on them.

But, what was he thinking?! This is a predominantly Catholic country, why would he do such an obvious act that would surely, absolutely, definitely elicit angry protests from Catholic religious groups.  This is a country where Catholic preachers like the bishops and priests would impose to everyone to go ahead, breed and produce more children despite the constantly growing poverty and condemn couples who separate because of domestic violence.  This is a predominantly Catholic country where corrupt and greedy politicians, killers, rapists, smugglers, abusive and despicable employers and leaders are very rampant, where great problem in illiteracy exists, where so many endangered species and forests are just waiting for their extinction.  In this predominantly Catholic country, because of what he did, he will be condemned and forever unforgiven.  He could be killed!  Executed!  Ostracized!

As expected, and naturally so, some Catholic loyalists who met with the officials of CCP, attended also by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and Cruz, expressed their rage in protest for the disrespect of their faith and they made sure that Cruz and everyone there feel their anguish.  Their anger turned to shouts.  They condemn CCP for allowing such “blasphemous” art exhibit.  That it is not a work of a Filipino, it is the work of a demon!

“We cannot please everyone,” was all that I could remember Cruz said to defend himself.

He seems like a good person when he speaks, mukha namang matino.  But why, oh, why must he do that?  Does his pieces of art work a manifestation of deep-seated emotions regarding the Catholic faith, regarding his discontentment for our country?  Is that his outcry for change, his rebellion to things that he could not accept?  Does his art work his SCREAM for freedom?

My brother said Cruz’s work really does offend since those religious images are sacred and symbols of the Roman Catholic faith.  But if you’re open-minded, my brother said, you reflect and try to understand the meaning of the artist’s work, you try to uncover the reason of the artist for creating it?  If you think about it, if the artist is really demonic, if you are an evil person, you wouldn’t do it in an obvious way like what Cruz did (here, I am getting his point).  Remember Satan?  He is the god of deception.  He doesn’t commit an evil through obvious acts. He does it in subtle ways, by showing goodness to deceive.  If you want to find demonic people they are found in the church!

He’s right.  Then I remember the book I read two years ago called “People of the Lie” written by M. Scott Peck.  In Chapter 2 entitled “Toward a Psychology of Evil,” he wrote:

We become evil by attempting to hide from ourselves.  The wickedness of the evil is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover-up process.  Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.  

It often happens, then, that the evil may be recognized by its very disguise.  The lie can be perceived before the misdeed it is designed to hide – the cover-up before the fact.  We see the smile that hides the hatred, the smooth and oily manner that masks the fury, the velvet glove that covers the fist.  Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of the evil.  The disguise is usually impenetrable. But what we can catch  are glimpses of “The uncanny game of hide-and-seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.”

Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church.  What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture?  In India I would suppose that the evil would demonstrate a similar tendency to be ‘good’ Hindus or ‘good’ Moslems.  I do not mean to imply that the evil are anything other than a small minority among the religious or that the religious motives of most people are in any way spurious.  I mean only that evil people tend to gravitate towards piety for the disguise and concealment it can offer them.

Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity.  They worry about this a great deal.  They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them.  They dress well, go to work on time, pay their taxes, and outwardly seem to live lives that are above reproach.

The words ‘image’, ‘appearance’, and ‘outwardly’ are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil.  While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good.  Their ‘goodness’ is all on a level of pretense.  It is, in effect, a lie.  This is why they are the ‘people of the lie.’


Written on August 8, 2011- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (


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