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The prudes who crucify for want of a loincloth on a chocolate Jesus

by Graeme J. Davidson 7 April, 2007

So, it’s not his stark nakedness, but the prudes who insist on the loincloth who are the affront to Jesus’ humanity and the ignominy of his suffering.

So, the conservative and bullying Catholic League is upset about a life-size chocolate Jesus. And the largest Catholic civil rights organization in the USA isn’t concerned whether the cocoa beans are fair trade or the product of slave labour.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue angrily denounced Christian food sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro for committing "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever". That suggests his chocolate crucifixion statue, “My sweet Lord”, must be obnoxious and pernicious and on a par with the Emperor Nero persecuting Christians for the Great Fire of Rome. But how can chocolate be so vile? After all, every chocoholic knows it stimulates love-related hormones. And Christianity’s definitely about love?

But it isn’t the thought of a 90 kilogram, 485,460 calorie milk chocolate Jesus that infuriates the League. American candy companies have produced chocolate images of Jesus for years.

In the League’s eyes, Cavallaro has committed the unforgivable sin of creating what the American press coyly call an “anatomically correct” Jesus. This doesn’t mean the size of the statue’s feet but the absence of a discreet loincloth over what the Monty Python team labelled “naughty bits”. Women and children passing by the downtown New York art gallery would be compelled to see the chocolate Jesus’ circumcised genitals during Holy Week, when, of course, their thoughts should be on higher things.

Donohue insisted, “This is hate speech. And choosing Holy Week makes it a direct in-your-face assault on Christians”. Another spokesperson for the League, Kiera McCaffrey, stated that the politically correct New York art community “would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the Prophet Mohammed naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan." Donohue went further: “All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended — otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off.” He wasn’t referring to their feet either. So the League organised a boycott of the Roger Smith Hotel and its Lab Gallery where the naked Jesus sculpture was to be exhibited.

The artist retaliated by inviting the public to come and have a bite of his chocolate Jesus and, grudgingly, the hotel hoisted the white bed sheet. The gallery’s creative director likened the deluge of abusive phone calls and emails they received to hate speech and the boycott to a fatwa.

Donohue was delighted with the League’s victory and refused to tell the 500 organisations that it had brought on board to call off the boycott: “Because we did not like the way the Roger Smith Hotel handled the decision to drop the display”.

Muslims generally avoid making images of Mohammed as Islam prohibits idolatry. In contrast, Christianity champions representational art, including works that show “naughty bits” like Michelangelo’s uncircumcised “Ðavid”. And there are countless images of Jesus which glorify the blood and gore of his torture and crucifixion. Why isn’t the Catholic League objecting to this form of vicarious violence? Is it because they believe that showing the passion in all its brutality helps bring home the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice? But wasn’t it customary for the Romans to add to their victims’ humiliation by crucifying them naked? The bible says the soldiers at Jesus’ crucifixion divided his clothes among them. So, it’s not his stark nakedness, but the prudes who insist on the loincloth who are the affront to Jesus’ humanity and the ignominy of his suffering. In fact, art restorers have found that Christian prudes added loincloths to earlier naked images of the crucified Jesus.

As Jesus was dying on the cross, he forgave those who put him to death. Reconciliation between others and God was the whole point of his mission – a fact that seems to have escaped the self-righteous Catholic League as they continue to crucify the Roger Smith Hotel for the want of a loincloth.

As for eating the chocolate Jesus, didn’t Jesus tell his followers at his last meal to eat his body? He meant the bread that represented his body, not chocolate, but “My sweet Lord” makes Christians think once again about what it means to embrace the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist. It’s also a reminder that when we eat those chocolate Easter eggs, they symbolise the new life and hope that reconciliation brings.


 

 

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