Matthew J. Milliner is associate professor of art history at Wheaton College. He is the author of The Everlasting People: G.K. Chesterton and the First Nations (InterVarsity Press, 2021) and Mother of the Lamb: The Story of a Global Icon (Fortress Press, 2022).
I have Orthodox friends that find our little chapel concerning, and they are certainly right that a casual use of icons for decorative enhancement is to be avoided. Still, their chief complaint should be directed to the monks of Mount Athos who, infused with God’s flagrant generosity, so recklessly gave their replica icons away.
I had seen the worst of America: the brittle surface of “good design” shattered by rage, and the reverse snobbery of the rest of America. Still, I wasn’t about to permit myself a trip like this, with such visual and emotional assault, without some kind of further insurance.