Barry Krammes on his role in the Jesus mural controversy

Art professor Barry Krammes heavily advocated in the ’80s for the mural to be painted on campus. He explains his reasons and expresses his remorse.

It’s my fault.

Dan Callis and I dreamed with Kent Twitchell to create a world-class mural on Biola’s campus to make it more difficult for administrators to get rid of the art department — a department in the mid to late ’80s deemed unnecessary and irrelevant to the goals and mission of this university. I remember going from administrator to administrator, trying to convince someone, anyone, that this could be a significant project, especially since there was no cost to the university.

Little did any of us know then, how much it would actually cost the Biola community. What Kent Twitchell gave in good faith as a lavish gift has turned into a continuing, non-ending nightmare over the years. The week of reconciliation chapels reopened painful conversations that I have struggled with in the past. When Matthew Hooper began to recount the number of individuals who have been deeply wounded by the mural, my heart sank. In the last few weeks I have had a reoccurring dream. In my dream it is the middle of the night. I bring a large bucket of paint to the Jesus Mural site and feverishly begin to blot the mural out.

This is either the sixth or seventh time I have been involved in a public forum dealing with the mural. Although it was hard on me, I can in good conscience say that the university’s most recent discussion was by far the best experience I have had. In my opinion, it was the first time any sort of nuanced and carefully considered exchange has taken place surrounding the mural. While I have always felt the multi-ethnic community has inappropriately used the Jesus mural as a lightning rod to rally its causes, substantive issues of justice lurking behind the mural are real and need to be addressed.

I am relieved that the multi-ethnic students have finally gotten the ear of upper administration and, in fact, the entire Biola community. It is my hope and prayer that some of what went on during the week of reconciliation will bear lasting fruit. I want the multi-ethnic students and their leaders to know that I fully support their endeavors. Their causes should be of prayerful concern to everyone who is a part of Biola.

The challenging work of making room at Biola’s “table” for diverse members of Christ’s body requires a humble spirit. My hunch after 27 years at Biola is that acts of genuine humility don’t take place as often as they should. Yet what I know for sure is that I am the chief of sinners—so consumed with my own circumstances that I fail to see the needs of those around me.

The “culturally sensitive minister” thinks about others, prays for others, cares about the betterment of others to the exclusion of self; anonymously, quietly working behind the scenes to benefit a disadvantaged brother even at the sacrifice of his or her own personal goals and agendas. This is the calling that Christ demands of all who claim to be Christians:s to love as He loves. It’s so easy to talk about and all, but impossible to do apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.

In recent days I have found myself moored, even rooted to a place of deep grief, which I am not able to shake. Here I mourn for the broken and fractured body of Christ around the globe. Here I cry out for my own and Biola’s dysfunctionality. Here I weep for all those who are hurt and suffering, both at Biola and beyond. Here I lament for all those who are misunderstood and taken advantage of. Here I pray for the world’s downtrodden masses and long for the day when he will wipe away every tear and restore to wholeness everyone that I have wounded and hurt.

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