Mary In A Bikini?.....

Neal Pollard
Out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, comes the kind of story one just does not read about every day.1 On one side stands the Archbishop of Santa Fe and presumably some outraged New Mexicans. On the other side stands an LA artist, Alma Lopez. In the middle sit the regents of the Museum Of New Mexico because of what hangs on one of their walls. There is a depiction of a woman named Mary (actually, the "Chicano" equivalent) all decked out in a bikini. Lopez defends the photo collage, pointing out that Mary should be portrayed as a modern woman, "a strong woman, like us." She believes that calling her print sinful is, in reality, calling the female body perverted and ugly.

So… what is the big deal? How is that an unusual story? Surely a Catholic official and museum administrators have all seen women in bikinis before this incident. Why are the regents considering removing the work from the state-funded Museum of International Folk Art? Why were there so many folks wanting to weigh in on this controversial matter that the regents had to postpone the meeting?

Did I mention that these were pictures of the "Virgin Mary"?

Many would consider it blasphemous to portray the mother of God, the Son in revealing attire. It is beyond immodest to these people. Some religious people worship Mary, believing that serving Mary secures them a place in Paradise, that she intercedes for them and restrains her Son from punishing sinners, and that prayer may be made to her.2

Some teach the "perpetual virginity" of Mary, denying she ever had children after Jesus (read Matthew 13:55ff). Thus, for these well-intentioned people, what Ms. Lopez has done is tantamount to blasphemy.

Despite the misguided, error-filled theology of those involved on both sides of this, the whole issue piques much interest and curiosity. Many people, besides Catholics, get their dander up at the thought of Jesus' earthly mother depicted in computer generated photos in a two-piece! Their most articulate argument may be "There's just something out of place about that," as they would prefer her depicted in more historically correct and culturally accurate apparel. Edersheim describes the apparel commonly worn in that day, from the under-garment (Kethoneth—made of linen, wool, even leather and other materials, and sometimes worn to the ankle or foot), the upper-garment (Tallith—which almost completely covered the under-garment), the girdle (Pundah—a practical garment with pockets), and additional garments which were luxury items.3 Archaeologists in the past century have found several garments, particularly in the Judean Desert Caves, that corroborate the existence and description of these garments mentioned by the Bible and ancient historians.4 Suffice it to say Mary would not have been caught dead or alive in a bikini!
Did I mention that these were pictures of the "Virgin Mary"?
Why is it that the mother of Christ should not be seen in a bikini, but the disciple of Christ can? That sounds like a double standard. Immodesty is immodesty, no matter who the woman or man is (cf. I Timothy 2:9).

Why is immodesty considered, according to Lopez, a sign of strength in a woman? Did not the feminists spend a lot of effort and time on how disdainful it is for women to be objectified? Here Ms. Lopez is setting that cause back twenty-five years! What kind of strength does it take to take your clothes off and parade around half-naked (or more)? It may advertise that a woman has physical tone, but neither emotional, nor intellectual, nor psychological, nor spiritual muscle is being flexed in brief attire!

I would like to be a fly on the wall when they find a place large enough to entertain all the people with their mouthfuls of comments. Do you want to guess on whose side most of the people will be? Ms. Lopez will at worst be painted a victim, at best a hero. Advocacy of modesty will be decried as prudish and outmoded.

Far better it would have been to have Mary in a modest, modern dress or long pants and decent blouse than a bikini. This spring, as temperatures rise and modesty begins to evaporate as quickly as the morning dew, will you have the courage and decency to shun brief attire? If the Lord were making a collage of Mary, how would He dress her?

How would He dress a Christian? How would He dress you (cf. Genesis 3:7; 3:21)?
1. This article comes via the April 5, 2001, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, page A-6.
2. cf. Lambert, Catholicism Against Itself, Vol. 2, 120-121.
3. The Life and Times Of Jesus The Messiah, 428-430.
4. Alexander Negev. ed. The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 89.
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