Last week I decided to turn another one of my paintings into a good cause. Based on a composition by Vincent VanGogh, my image re-examines the parable of the Good Samaritan and recontextualizes its message for today’s tribal world. It encourages people to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?” My answer to that question was to help the refugee crisis by sharing half of the proceeds of print sales with two different organizations.
However, these good intentions quickly got the attention of Homeland Security regulations. That’s right. My distinctively “Christian” art was censored by the government.
You see, I intentionally named the painting “The Good Syrian” to reimagine the Jesus parable for today. Enter government sanctions. Within an hour of the project being posted, all transactions were frozen due to the regulations that flag “words from countries that are sanctioned by the US Government to insure the safety of our country.” (This vague PayPal policy is informed by the DHS Office for Assets and Control.) Apparently creating art about helping people threatens the safety of our country.
After communicating with PayPal "compliance-transactions" department and working for days with PayPal customer service to remove the hold on the transactions, we finally encountered a Supervisor in the "Limitations" Department who saw the folly of it all and set in motion corrective measures to fix the problem. It looks like we will be back in business soon.
While I understand where some of these policies come from, it leaves me with some serious questions. What does this tell us about freedom of speech (creativity for artists)? About freedom of religion? About government overreach?
So, if you aren’t sure what to do in this complex world of diversity and division we currently find ourselves in, here are some things you can do:
- Read Luke 10:25-37 and wrestle deeply with what Jesus has to say about how we treat people who are different than ourselves and in need of help.
- Visit http://www.eyekons.com/joel_tanis/the_good_syrian and then consider joining the cause by purchasing a print of the painting.
- Share this freely with anyone and everyone.
- Download the #FreeTheArt image for your profile or other social media. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/2l80IOj