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Essay

IMAGE HAS ALWAYS embraced the idea that art often speaks better than argument, and that seems especially true in times of grief. For this issue, we’ve chosen to print a poem rather than a traditional editorial.

As the Image board and staff search for a new editor, we and our community are in a state of lament—over what we’ve learned about this institution’s past and over this painful transition. People suffered in the past and are suffering now. There seems not to be a way of fixing things without breaking more things. The world is broken, each one of us is broken, and institutions are liable to their own peculiar forms of brokenness.

During this time, I’ve appreciated the following poem by Scott Cairns. Yes, for its warning against schadenfreude, but also for its nudge toward the future, though a heavy future. The work ahead can only be done in light of the past. “Whose image haunts the mirror?” the speaker asks: whatever the poem’s addressee will “become,” that becoming will be spectered, accompanied by spirits.

Going forward, while honoring Image’s historic identity, we aim to make room for more editorial voices, including an expanded and more active editorial advisory board that can bring depth of understanding and a variety of perspectives to each genre. Our mission will be what it always has been: to publish the best contemporary art and writing that engage seriously with faith in a diversity of styles and forms.

On the cover of this issue is a sculpture by Irish ceramicist Claire Curneen, Empty Tomb. It is a resurrection image that still bears the marks of past suffering. Curneen makes the wounds beautiful, in gold and china blue, but they are still holes in a human torso.

One of Christianity’s most peculiar beliefs—a teaching I find both comforting and troubling—is felix culpa, the idea that once God has healed a damaged creature, the creature is more beautiful and perfect than it was before it was damaged. This is true even when God’s healing is, as it often seems, a long time coming. May it be so.


Bad Theology: A Quiz
Scott Cairns

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.

Whenever we aver the God is nigh,
do we imply that he is ever otherwise?

When, in scripture, God’s anger is said
to be aroused, just how do you take that?

If—whether now or in the fullness—we
stipulate that God is all in all, just where

or how would you position hell? Which
is better, to break the law and soothe

the wounded neighbor, or to keep the law
and cause the neighbor pain? Do you mean it?

If another sins, what is that to you?
When the sinful suffer publicly, do you

find secret comfort in their grief, or will
you also weep? They are surely grieving;

are you weeping now? Assuming sin is sin,
whose do you condemn? Who is judge? Who

will feed the lambs? The sheep? Who, the goats?
Who will sell and give? Who will be denied?

Whose image haunts the mirror? And why
are you still here? What exactly do you hope

to become? When will you begin?


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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