Jesus mural artist to speak at Monday’s chapel

The chapel will be part of next week’s “Picture This: Love, Justice, and Jesus” series focusing on the Jesus Mural and ethnic identity at Biola.

Harmony Wheeler, Writer

Kent Twitchell, the artist who created the Jesus Mural, will speak at Monday’s chapel for the first time since the early 1990s.

The chapel will be part of the “Picture This: Love, Justice, and Jesus” series focusing on the Jesus Mural and ethnic identity at Biola.

Lasting from Friday, April 16 to Friday, April 23, the series will consist of daily chapels including Talbot, Singspo and After Dark chapels, a student forum and lunch Q&As after chapels on April 19, 21 and 23.

“We are talking now because a decision will have to be made on the future of the mural,” said Pete Menjares, the associate provost for diversity leadership and one of the week’s speakers. “Closure is elusive, but we need to talk.”

The chapels will focus on more than the Jesus Mural, said Talbot professor Ben Shin, one of six panel members who will speak on the theological implications of the mural at Wednesday’s chapel.

“We’re encouraging people as they enter into the week to take the perspective of other people,” said Tim Muehlhoff, associate professor of communication, who will speak at the opening chapel. “Whether for the mural or against the mural, we should make sure we’re taking time to do the hard work of understanding each other’s perspectives.”

“The fact that it’s an issue every year or two tells us something deeper is there,” said Menjares, who led planning efforts for the week.

The mural has been the subject of debate since Twitchell originally painted it in 1989. Menjares said a group of students wrote a document listing their concerns over the painted Jesus’ race in 1993 following 1992 LA riots over racial tension. Biola held a faculty forum on the topic last spring, and a May 2009 chapel gave students the opportunity to reflect on the mural.

Recent debate has centered over whether the mural should be retouched, repainted or gotten rid of all together, all of which Menjares said are options. President Corey, who commissioned the week of discussion, will make the ultimate decision.

Critics of the mural, like freshman African-American Michelle Onuorah, say it reflects a predominately white campus and should have its skin color darkened to more accurately depict what Jesus might have looked like.

Supporters of the mural remind critics that Twitchell has also painted Latino and African-American murals of Jesus in the LA area and that he modeled the mural on a Jewish man, They recognize the importance of talking about diversity at Biola, but they believe Biola should not change or get rid of the mural.

Korean junior Jane Yu and Hispanic freshman Aaron Mantalvo said they do not have negative feelings about the mural.

“We have to deal with it because of the way the world is and the mural should be looked at within the realm of trying to spread the Gospel, but we should give credit to the artist,” Montalvo said. “I’d be more offended by people who take something beautiful out of context.”

“It’s a good launch pad, but people make too big a deal of it,” Yu said. “I think [the mural is a] good idea to talk about as long as it’s not overemphasized. That will take the focus off the real issue.”

Allen Yeh, one of Wednesday’s panel speakers, said the goal of the chapels is to give students a more detailed, less black-and-white view of the issue.

“That’s what the whole week is about: to have a good conversation where everybody’s perspective is heard and considered,” Muehlhoff said. “We’re called to bear one another’s burdens, to be concerned with the feelings of all students. If you don’t then you’re forming stereotypes. [If you do,] it shows maturity, willingness to see both sides of an issue, which is important for Christians, for everybody to do.”

Yeh said he hopes the chapels will unite students rather than than divide them.

“We don’t want students to feel like, whatever decision Metzger makes, they’re being cheated, not being informed,” Yeh said.

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