Religion without borders


Both the audience and the projection system at McCormick Theological Seminary provided multiple perspectives for Suzanne Hoeferkamp Segovia's lecture, “A Divine-Human Encounter at the Cross Road of Creation,” last Wednesday. When the main projector refused to function, the staff set up two more on its left and right, projecting slides from different angles. The result fit well with a talk that criticized Western art for shutting out other viewpoints.

Segovia, an independent theologian, discussed how religion and art expressed colonialism's tortured history in the Americas. Western art places more value on the product, she asserted, while other cultures see the process itself as equally worthy. Westerners underestimate the creative process of art that she thinks is “inherently religious.” For Segovia, human creativity participates in divine creation itself.

The colonists did not see the worth of the Americas' religious art and creativity. Christopher Columbus, she argued, felt that Europeans had the right to subjugate indigenous peoples. Westerners understood themselves as objective and correct; in what Segovia termed a “war of images,” colonists called Amerindian religious art “idolatry,” denying its religious power.

Indigenous peoples, Segovia explained, did not deify their own viewpoint; instead they used myth to depict a world beyond the reality of the senses. Using their fragmentary culture's images and ideas, indigenous artists strove "to receive the holy" found in "the commonplace." The shrine of Señor de la Conquista in Mexico, a local portrayal of Christ as dark-skinned, blends native and colonial perspectives. It is "necessary to tolerate ambiguity," she explained, "necessary to be open to a new reality. Dare to cross borders.”

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: Suzanne Hoeferkamp Segovia lectures at McCormick Theological Seminary; Professor José David Rodriguez asks Segovia to elaborate on the relation between theology and art.

June 27, 2007