Garden Grove, CA - Those who have traveled abroad, especially those who may have toured some of the great cathedrals of Europe, have most likely encountered various paintings, statues and possibly carvings of different stories from the Bible. But all too often, it seems, many of these works depict the characters from the stories either unclothed or practically unclothed.
"It's bizarre" said Bill Christopher, an American who recently toured Europe with his wife. "I don't know where all of these artists down through the centuries got the idea that everyone ran around naked in the Bible."
Indeed famous works have depicted people going out to get baptized by John the Baptist, naked. There are paintings of the last judgment, and often the various subjects in the paintings are naked. Even, perhaps, one of the most famous of all, Michaelangelo's statue of "David" depicts the King of Israel in the nude.
"I just don't understand what the significance is" stated Elizabeth Harden, another recent visitor to Rome. "The only time the subject of naked appears in the Bible, it's often in a bad context."
But still, despite objections, cathedrals throughout the world are still adorned with nudity. And recently this inspired another modern "cathedral" to give it a try. Robert Schuller, founder of the "Hour of Power" and the ministry of the Crystal Cathedral, came to the realization that his "cathedral" was lacking something.
"We have a truly magnificent structure here" stated Schuller, "and we began to think that perhaps we were missing something. As we looked around, we noticed we had no statues and no magnificent works of art. So we began to investigate this further."
After several months of deliberation, Schuller decided the church should be adorned with artwork. The church enlisted the help of a team of five famous contemporary artists from around the world.
"We told them to make our cathedral glorious like those around the world" said Schuller. "We asked them to fill our church with artwork depicting the founding of this ministry and the work we have done here."
Thus, the work began. Statues were carved, paintings were painted, carvings were made and tapestries were woven. Then came the day of unveiling. The artists set up all of the works in the cathedral late one Saturday night to be revealed the next morning during a special commemoration service for the artwork.
The service was filled with much pomp and majesty. The choir sang a number of selections including portions of Handel's Messiah. One of the artist who designed many of the statues for the cathedral, Hiliuajana Rotherovraza, spoke during the service on the nature of the project. At last the moment to reveal all of the works of art came. The orchestra began to play as the lights dimmed. The drums rolled and the sheets were pulled away. In a matter of seconds the sanctuary filled with gasps and sounds of shock. Even Schuller himself stood aghast for a moment. There before the watching eyes of everyone in the congregation were works of art depicting the history of The Crystal Cathedral with every subject in the paintings completely unclothed.
"It was quite disturbing" said one congregation member, Ellis Hathaway. "There were pictures and statues everywhere of Dr. Schuller. In some he was preaching, in another he was shown breaking ground on the Cathedral when it was built. But in every last picture or statue he was as bare as the day he was born."
From that point on in the service Schuller tried to recover some sense of order. Many congregation members left. Others laughed, while still others became ill. Schuller hesitantly thanked the five proud artists who were present and quickly pronounced a benediction of sorts, exiting the stage before anyone could stop him for questioning. All of the works of art were removed later the same day.
"I think, looking back, it was a bad idea" said Schuller. "Perhaps we should have defined a little more clearly what we wanted or at least been more involved in the process."
Schuller went on to state that the Crystal Cathedral has no further plans to add any more artwork or statuary to their church.