In the desert town of Lancaster, California, I once attended a charity’s silent auction, where I was so struck by the fairly large (28 x 24 inches) painting above that I took what for me then was quite a leap, and bid $80.00 on it. Weirdly enough (to me anyway), I was the only bidder. Victory! While paying for it I learned the painting had been done the boxer Muhammad Ali, who had also autographed it. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
Who knew The Greatest was a painter? And judging from this picture, I know, many would argue that he’s not. But I like it. It’s informed by a direct and elemental power that I find moving. (And, as someone showed me today, apparently it’s worth $5,000!)
Some fifteen years after acquiring this picture, I (out of nowhere) became a Christian. I then wondered if it was right for me to have hanging in my office Ali’s painting, which pretty explicitly celebrates Islam. But then I thought, “Who cares? Islam isn’t the enemy of Christianity. Evil is the enemy of Christianity.”
“On the other hand,” I thought, “many Christians believe that Islam is evil. This painting hanging in my house will drive at least some of my new Christian friends crazy. But so what? Art is art. Soul is soul. If anyone has a problem with this great painting, they can talk to me about it (which would make for a good and even important conversation, actually!) In any event, in the name of religion I’m not turning my back on art that I love. Because then I would be the exact sort of person that I think the world needs a whole lot fewer of.”
So that’s how that decision came down for me. How about you? If you’re a Christian (and assuming you liked the painting), would you hang it up in your house?