Parody or Heresy?

Alex Ramos, an alumnus of Harvard Divinity School with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, decided to deviate from his typical landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes to paint sacred icons featuring science fiction characters.  The Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions decided to feature his work in their new art exhibit.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen institutions of higher learning challenging the rules of traditional iconography.   Last September, Fordham University in New York City, featured the work of Joni Zavitsanos, daughter of Diamantis John Cassis, a Byzantine iconographer who created religious images for churches around the world.  Her musings with the sacred caused a stir, as well.       

More than a few of us are unamused.  Our own Father Alexander Webster decided to do something about it.  

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  1. This is indeed flat out offensive, in a deliberately blasphemous way. Joni Zavitsanos was producing actual art using themes from and consistent with Orthodoxy – her piece on St Mary of Egypt was theologically sound, her portrait of the venial Bartholomew considerably less so – to compare the two is unfortunate.

  2. Meanwhile, in the civilized world, Putin is rejecting homosexual ‘marriage’ and is considering updating the constitution to protect traditional marriage.


  3. Alitheia 1875 says

    Both displays are blasphemous. Without a doubt.

  4. It’s almost time we start saying,
    “Lord do NOT have mercy on us!”

  5. Monk James Silver says

    Did Harvard Divinity School’s Dean David Hempton reply to Fr Alexander Webster?
    Was the exhibit canceled. or did HDS at least withdraw its sponsorship?
    Did anyone outside of Monomakhos even notice Fr Alexander’s protest, or heed his words?

    • They probably ignored him, as they ignore everyone who disagrees with them. Unlike most Orthodox priests, at least Father Alexander can say that he never remained silent in the face of unrighteousness. His consistency in this regard has been impressive.

  6. It’s Harvard, that’s all.  The place ignorant orthodox are so thrilled about;  look, our archbishop was a professor there!  Nobody seems to get it.  The place is thrilled with funny accents and funny clothes.  They cycle through and have no effect,  the school basks in the diversity glow.  

  7. Snowing at Monomakhos? Or just in Jordanville? How about a little more defense of the living icons of God and a little less hand-wringing over silly art…

  8. Alitheia 1875 says

    Did Holy Cross object that fellow Boston Theological Institute member HDS sponsored this abomination?

  9. I think it is time to clarify terminology.  “Blasphemous” perhaps characterizes it best yet the mindset is not merely heretical but apostate.  Apostasy is the total abandonment of the dogmatic claims of the faith rather than simply their distortion.  What the painter is saying is that the Theotokos and Christ are just two more useful fictional characters used to convey a morality play, much like the droids depicted.

    • Monk James Silver says

      We can define ‘blasphemy’ as any sort of insult to God and to His deeds as we perceive them in the world.
      On the other hand, we Christians must limit the definition of ‘heresy’ to anything which distorts  what we know —  by divine revelation —  about the holy Trinity and especially about our Lord, Jesus Christ.
      Only Christians are capable of heresy, and may God save us from that.  The religious opinions of people outside The Church are merely an extension of their errors.
      The opinions of people outside The Church cannot be heretical, although they might be blasphemous.  On the whole, we can ignore them.

  10. So weird and bizarre.   Also so weird and bizarre to read “C-3PO,” “R2-D2,” and “Yoda” written in Greek script on these “paintings.”
    George, thank you for bringing this to our attention. American culture already goes way out of its way to deliberately try to forget about God, to pretend that He’s not there, and to try to keep Him securely locked up so that He cannot and will not enlighten our society. It’s so delusional. 

    But I notice this event happened a year ago – Fr Alexander’s letter is dated Jan 2019. Why the delay in putting this out to the Orthodox public?

  11. Antiochene Son says

    Considering how amateurish and bad the artwork is, the only possible reason for this exhibit is to offend. 

    • Johann Sebastian says

      This is what I call clipart capitalism.
      $3375 indeed.
      You can get a very good (and attractive) antique painting of that size for less than 1/5 that price at auction. The artist may be an obscure one, but who has heard of Lyosha Gauthier or will remember him in 200 years’ time either?

  12. The Christ gave all authentic Christianity a Command, it was not one of the two great Commands, but it does enhance and clairfy how best to obey the 2 Great Commands. I demand mercy and not sacrifice, go ye and find out what that means
    Forgive them Father, they know not what they do. Do not count this sin against them, said St Steven as they stoned him to death. St Paul was willing to not be saved himself, if these who he loved could be saved instead. This is an essencial talent bestowed upon us and controled by the Holy Trinity. It is a divine spiritual expression of the fact that the Christ came to earth not to destreoy mens lives, but to save them for eternity. It is obvious that the divinity school painter doesn’t have a clue, as to  what the demand of mercy and not sacrific means. Lord have mercy upon him. His spiritual condition makes me sorrowful.

  13. Michael Bauman says

    I just don’t have the capacity for outrage over this. In an anti-Christian culture what else should we expect?

    • Michael I long ago lost the outrage. We must understand that the time for outrage is done and that we must turn inwards, not in narrow way, but spiritually to go deeper, not to narrow, our spiritual defense, but to strengthen it.

  14. I look at these ‘Ikons’.
    Then I look at Rublev’s Trinity;
    or the Christ Pantokrator on my wall,
    from St Catherine’s in Sinai.
    There is no doubting what is real;
    and what is fake rubbish.

    • Brendan,
      the real one is the product of praying and fasting.
      The other one is the product of demonic inspiration.

  15. Off-topic, but it looks like John Cats made good on his threat to shut down bloggers critical of the GOA. Nick Stamatakis’ site has gone dark. Navigate to any page and you get an “Account Suspended” message.

    The other site,, is still up as of now. With his resources, Cats can track down any blogger or commenter. Maybe folks should consider going back to the samizdat system under the Soviets?

    • The page link works for me

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I think it was just a glitch. The link seems to be working now.

      John Cats is a public figure. He can’t shut down bloggers for telling the truth. If he pulls these people into lawsuits everything will come out. I can’t imagine he would want that.

  16. Austin Martin says

    People wanted Orthodoxy to go mainstream and become a household name. Nine years ago when I was wanting to convert, I couldn’t find any apologetics against Orthodoxy from a Protestant perspective — today there are several.

    The more well-known Orthodoxy becomes, the more you’ll see of these. It’s just part of the package.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Over nine years ago there was a lot of negative critique on Hank Hannegraff’s web site Now he is Orthodox. But he was always honest and a truth seeker.

      God is good.