Many of the literary greats have from time to time grappled with the definitions of both beauty and art. All images and likenesses of anything are subject to idolization. For example: a portrait of a fish. If the image is by Picasso, it might take on a value far above that of the fish it portrays. However absurd it may be, men sometimes steal and even kill in order to obtain such objets d’art. Some portraits are called priceless but change hands for millions of dollars. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is valued in excess of $50 Million. Realistically, we are talking about a small wooden board covered in oil paint. A man can eat a fish and live but he can’t eat the image of a fish. Idolatry in this case lies in the fact that the image is esteemed above the thing which it portrays. It is a distortion of values.
The Old Testament Prophets decried idolatry unsparingly. The image of God is not God. The ignorant and superstitious venerated and valued these images above God and His values. Throughout the history of the organized Christian Church images, symbols, statuary and stained glass were used to elucidate religious tenets to the illiterate masses, but such statuary became precious to them. Even in modern times this is problematic in that it tends to interfere with the internalization of The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ lives in us, not in a church, not in a statue, not in a portrait, not in a stone. Any image of Jesus is absurd on two levels: First, no one really knows what he looked like. All images of Jesus, no matter how popular or commonplace, are conceptions of a particular artist and not true. Second, and more importantly, One cannot build The Kingdom of Heaven hanging from a hook in the hall. The Holy Spirit is an indwelling spirit. God lives in us. With that being said, there will still be those of us who wish to display such images in their homes. So, where to place them?
I would suggest that a portrait of Christ be placed at the top of the stairs. Further, I would place a portrait of an ape or a chimpanzee at the bottom. A portrait of your mortal father would fit midway up the stairs. Finally, I would place a mirror on the wall opposite your father’s portrait. In this wise, each time you look in the mirror you will see your father ‘looking over your shoulder’. Why? Because life is a dichotomy: we are both animal and spiritual. In ascending the stairs you will see that your father is lower than God. In descending the stairs you will see that your father is above the animal. In looking in the mirror you are on a par with your father. We are more than apes but less than gods.