Thinking Anglicans

art and religion meet

Today, the Observer carries a report by Jamie Doward that fills page 3 of the paper:
Anti-gay millionaire bankrolls Caravaggio spectacular
This concerns a current special exhibition at the National Gallery in London, but is concerned not with the content of the exhibition but with the identity of the financial sponsor who is Howard Ahmanson. The illustrations for the article include a picture of him. An excerpt:

But it is clear Rushdoony’s influence – and the legacy bequeathed by Ahmanson’s generosity – lives on at the foundation which continues to argue homosexuality is sinful. Ortiz said: ‘I would categorise homosexuality, as the Bible does, with necrophilia and bestiality and bigamy and the rest of it. It’s obviously not the way, physically, things were designed to work and morally it’s not what God has permitted.’

And though Ahmanson may distance himself from the foundation his money continues to fund anti-gay causes. In 2000, Ahmanson gave at least $310,000 to the Knight Initiative, for its campaign against the granting to homosexuals in California of the same legal rights as heterosexuals.

And he is a generous supporter of the conservative American Anglican Council (AAC) which has unleashed chaos upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, by threatening to break away from the 70-million strong Anglican Communion over the ordination of gay bishops.

Liberals in the Anglican church in Britain said there was an absurd paradox that the National Gallery had to seek funding for an exhibition of a painter, whose work scandalised the church, from the deeply religious Ahmansons.

‘It’s ironic that one of the major funders of the exhibition – about which there has been such interesting comment about Caravaggio’s realism, use of real life models and homo-erotic content – should also be one of the major funders of the AAC,’ said Reverend Nicholas Holtam, vicar at St Martin-in-the-Fields church next to the National Gallery.

History, suggested Holtam, was repeating itself. ‘Ahmanson’s support seems to be an example of Caravaggio drawing the contemporary conservative church into a reality they want officially to deny – just as he did in his own day.’

Sidebar to the article:
Howard F Ahmanson Jr: the man and the money

Born: Los Angeles 1950. Inherited a fortune from his father’s savings and loans company.

Funds: a number of right wing causes and charities through his own private company Fieldstead and Company Inc, which describes itself as ‘a private philanthropy working in national and international relief and development, education, the arts, family and children’s concerns’. Gave financial backing to RJ Rushdoony, high priest of a religious movement known as ‘reconstructionism’ which calls for government based on the literal word of God. Has given millions to the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based centre which attempts to prove Darwin’s theory of evolution was wrong and the Claremont Institute, a right wing think-tank which promotes family values. Has additionally given money to right-wing intellectual Marvin Olasky, credited by Newt Gingrich as the intellectual author of ‘compassionate conservatism’, the ideology espoused by George W Bush.

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