A few days ago, I came across a piece of artwork entitled “St. George’s Remorse.” Before I go into anything else, I’d just like to say this:
I have nothing against this artist and I really do think that painting is beautiful. I’m not sure what she was trying to say with it; whatever she meant to say, the implications which could be drawn from the painting illustrate my ideological point, and I am by no means attempting to bash her work or her worldview. And so, onward!
A beautiful artwork, isn’t it? There is a good deal that could be said about the technical merits of the work and the excellent composition and the raw emotion conveyed by the scene. However, I find this work disturbing for reasons that may or may not be immediately evident. Perhaps it will become more clear if I quote both the artist’s statement about the painting:
My latest oil painting depicting St.George’s remorse after having slain the Dragon.
and a description given by the person championing it:
[…] a very touching painting, depicting an intimate moment of St.George after having killed the Dragon and feeling remorse for his cruel action.
There are two ways this can be taken. The first, which I feel may be taken more by the artist than by the other person, is that slaying the dragon was an act which was necessary, but it still resulted in remorse over the death of something magnificent. Magnificent things do not, after all, have to be morally good, and their very magnificence will usually bring with it sadness if they’re destroyed. It’s a sort of bittersweetness on the part of the saint, a wish that he didn’t have to do the thing that he had to do. Nevertheless, he did it. If that is indeed the artist’s intent, then I can get behind it. There’s depth and emotion and a sense of tragic beauty there. However, I fear that the intent of the painting may be closer to what is implied in the second of the above quotes, and that implication is this: that destroying evil was a cruel action. That is quite a terrible thing to say. Destroying evil may be hard. It may be terrible. Yet it is not wrong, and the whole implication that this piece may have is that there is an inherent cruelty and wrongness in the destruction of evil.
There’s another level to consider, as well. The Dragon in the tale of St. George and the Dragon represents evil, sin, Satan. St. George is a knight sworn to the service of God–a true Christian warrior. A Christian warrior must oppose evil wherever it raises its head. He must slay every dragon he meets, or die trying. The implication that he should feel remorse for fighting evil is insidious and even devilish. The idea that Good should cry and wish that it could have let Evil live is nothing but cowardice, sniveling compromise. Rather, let Good lament that Evil ever entered the world. Let it lament the wrongs done by Evil. But never let it cry over Evil’s corpse and call itself cruel for banishing darkness.