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Inside NCR

George W’s Jesus and Jesus of the People

Ours is a violent country. We look aghast at faraway killing fields and console ourselves it would never happen here. But those countries are at war. The chilling thing is that we call our violent situation peace.

Worried that the mayhem may eventually envelop ourselves, we scramble for solutions. In this scramble we are one of the most backward populations on earth. We are still doing it in the manner of the old frontier, where we found a tree and strung the culprit up, only now we keep the tree out of sight. Most of the rest of the world thinks justice is not done this way.

Special Report Writer Patricia Lefevere kept vigil in Texas as the executions gathered speed this election year while Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who said recently that Jesus was his hero, piles up the numbers in polls and dollars (story and editorial). And NCR columnist Jeannette Batz visited a trial in St. Louis (story) at which, the evidence shows, killing them softly by long prison sentences may not be justice either.

This topic, uncomfortable as a pebble in your shoe, is too urgent, and tied too intimately to how we live with ourselves, for us to ignore it. And we won’t.

With pride and pleasure we announce NCR’s Jesus 2000 art exhibitions, two of them for starters, enough to call this a national tour, probably with more to come.

There has been ongoing interest in getting the pictures together -- the more people admired the reproductions, the more they wanted to see the real thing. In a perfect world we would put the entire collection of 1,678 works on exhibition -- an uneven, intriguing, uplifting, entertaining, slightly mind-bending splurge of the human religious imagination at a crossroad -- but for now a selection from the judges’ top choices is being invited.

The first exhibition will be jointly presented by Pace University and Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America from May 1 through June 30, at The Gallery, Schimmel Center for the Arts, 3 Spruce St. in New York, opposite City Hall in Manhattan. The organizer is Dr. Joanna Chan, artistic director of the Yangtze Repertory Theatre, herself one of the participating artists (her “Jerusalem 1998” is on page 12 of the Jesus 2000 supplement).

The second will be held at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, in July. The organizer in Chicago is Pattie Wigand Sporrong, who was a member of the panel of judges responsible for selecting the top 10 images from which Sr. Wendy Beckett picked the winner. Further details on the Chicago show will come later.

Meanwhile, we have been deluged with requests for information about prints or posters of Janet McKenzie’s winning painting, “Jesus of the People.” The good news is that they are available from Guildhall: e-mail westart@guildhall.com or phone 1-800-356-6733; or from Lasting Visions: phone 888-890-0005; or you can contact artist McKenzie directly at jmckenzie2000@hotmail.com

Several issues ago we promised to present two new images from our Jesus 2000 collection on NCR’s Web site every week. We have not been very organized about this (it’s all my fault), but promise to do better. We plan to present, not a repeat of the images in our Jesus 2000 supplement, but pairs of the other art works that, we think, deserve to be aired so people can see the impressive range of this art adventure. Since there are nearly 1,700 in all, we can’t promise to show every one, but we’ll make a start and see where this goes.

The entrants, by the way, have been wonderfully patient. We promised to return their slides after the Christmas rush, and we will, but we are busy scanning the entire collection so that this unique experience will somehow be preserved for posterity. We’re not sure what we will do with the preserved images after that, but we will, in the very near future, return the slides to their owners.

Meanwhile, we have received orders for thousands of copies of the Jesus 2000 supplement. They are available at $5 -- or $3:50 for orders of 50 or more -- by check or money order only, I’m told (therefore not by phone and credit card), from NCR J2K, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111.

This week we welcome a new staff member: Layout Assistant and Staff Writer Tobias Becker.

A native of Kansas, Becker has degrees in English literature and art from Kansas State University. His peripatetic background includes a foreign studies program at the Norwich School of Art and Design in England. He has worked as a freelance graphic designer. He also worked for two summers as an English instructor in Xi’an, China.

Becker is not actually a total newcomer to the company. He has been working for a year in the design department. Now he will divide his time between the newspaper -- where he will do layout and also take responsibility for the briefs pages -- and NCR’s sister publication, Celebration.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2000