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The Lie Behind “The Truth”

Have you ever come down with a raging case of hero worship?

Maybe it was the driving force that fueled a knock down drag out fight on the playground over whether Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player ever?

(We all know the real answer is Hank Aaron, anyway..)

Maybe it was the moment you became like a deer in the headlights when you saw your favorite celebrity in the airport.

Maybe it was the time you questioned the spiritual maturity of anyone who didn’t hang with baited breath on the words of your favorite pastor.

Hero worship is certainly a major part of what it means to be human.

Deep down inside we believe we can find a sense of fulfillment and meaning in our lives not from God, but from someone with skin on.

If you don’t believe that is true, consider a controversy that errupted over a work of art that was scheduled for debut at Union Square In New York City last week.

“The Truth” by Michael D’Antuono

The painting titled “The Truth” amounts to a kind of national Rorshach test.

According to a statement released about the portrait, “The 30″ x 54″ acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing, and is he being crucified or glorified?”

Even the title of the piece, “The Truth,” suggests a play on biblical themes, as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

“More than a presidential portrait,” writes artist Michael D’Antuono on a website touting the painting, “‘The Truth’ is a politically, religiously and socially-charged statement on our nation’s current political climate and deep partisan divide that is sure to create a dialogue.”

Like others in the news who have depicted Obama in Christ-like imagery, D’Antuono insists he isn’t claiming the man is Messiah, but only inviting “individual interpretations.”

“‘The Truth,’ like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder,” claims the exhibit’s press release.

D’Antuono even invites the public to email him with reactions to the piece, answering his posed question, “What’s your truth?”

Apparently D’Antuono’s attempt at generating controversy went a bit too far even for his own taste.

The idea of the piece, or the reaction that I’d hoped for, was to highlight our nation’s deep partisan divide and how our interpretation of the truth is really prejudiced by our political perspective and I think that to a large degree we are being manipulated by the media. I miss the old day when we just have the facts. Now we have pundits and spin and strategists.

I just thought that through that painting people would see different things. The right and the left would have different interpretations of it based on their political lens. But I have to admit I was very surprised that instead of that I got thousands of email complaining on the religious front. And that was not my intent at all. I wanted to create a dialog politically but not religiously. I didn’t mean to make fun of anybody’s religion; maybe I did so naively but I didn’t mean it that way. In the bible Jesus is The Truth and comparing Obama that way isn’t something I meant to do at all.

Apparently, I’ve upset a lot of people. And I’ve decided that’s not what I wanted to do and I’m not going to display it in the park on Wednesday … art is meant to be somewhat provocative but the religious element went way farther than I had anticipated.

Gee,  Michael!

Hard to believe people would sense a comparison to a major spiritual figure in your painting.

But there is a significant point that paintings like “The Truth” reveal.

No matter what your political preferences might be, there is no doubt about the fact that Barack Obama has generated some, well, less than rational enthusiasm among his more ardent supporters.

From MSNBC’s Chris Matthews declaring that hearing Mr. Obama speak “sent a tingle up my leg!”

To the ever controversial Louis Farrakhan declaring:

“You are the instruments that God is going to use to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the youth. And he has involved young people in a political process that they didn’t care anything about. That’s a sign. When the Messiah speaks, the youth will hear, and the Messiah is absolutely speaking.”

These over the top statements and questionably executed works of art do illustrate our desire for someone, anyone to save us from ourselves.

This is a classic good news/bad news situation.

The bad news?

When we try to derive a sense of personal meaning by putting our faith in anyone or anything less than God, we are setting ourselves up for a major fall.

Be it a politician or a pastor, sooner or later we discover that our idols are just as fallible and flawed as we are.

But the good news is equally powerful and practical.

When we invest that desire to put our faith in Someone greater than ourselves in the proper place, we find the peace and fulfillment we are looking for.

I will never forget talking with a man who told me he had lost his faith in God.

He told me that he had given his life to Christ at a Jimmy Swaggart rally back in the eighties.

When Jimmy Swaggart’s ungodly lifestyle was exposed, his ministry died. And this man’s faith died with it.

“Jimmy Swaggart was a phony,” he told me, “So I guess my faith was phony too.”

I will never forget the look on his face when I replied with a simple question:

“So did you invite Jimmy Swaggart into your heart to be your Lord and Savior?”

“Why, no…” he stammered. “I accepted Jesus that night.”

“So what was it about Jesus that you found to be phony or hypocritical?”


I replied, “I don’t think you lost your faith in Jesus. Just in someone who claimed to represent him. Put your faith in God. He will never let you down.”

The lie behind “The Truth”?

No politician can solve our greatest personal problem – the need for a genuine reconciliation and relationship with the Lord Who loves us.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:5-6)

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