Last night I saw a news story about a sculpture of Jesus, meant to be displayed in an art gallery housed in a New York hotel. The exhibition was cancelled after vocal protests.
It turns out there are two unusual things about this sculpture…
1) It depicts Jesus, arms outstretched as though hanging on a cross, without so much as a loin cloth.
2) It’s made entirely of chocolate.
No, you did not read that last sentence wrong. The artist — whose past medium have included five tons of pepper jack cheese (sprayed on a Wisconsin home, of course) and 312 pounds of processed ham (you start to get the feeling he’s not a conventional artist) — calls his latest creation “My Sweet Lord.”
And what does the artist have to say about it?
My intention was to celebrate the body of Christ in a sweet, delicious, tasteful way.
This post is not about the suitability of chocolate as a media for artistic depictions of Jesus. It’s not about the appropriateness of portraying the crucified Jesus without any clothes. (Although his Roman executioners almost certainly stripped him completely, taking even the smallest shred of dignity.)
I guess I just don’t take artists who paint hotel rooms in melted mozzarella too seriously.
But what about the way some Christians have reacted to the sculpture? The gallery and hotel say they were overrun with angry phone calls and emails, including death threats.
Death threats? From Christians?
Then Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League (a group that exists to “defend the right of Catholics… to participate in American public life”) went head-to-head with the artist on CNN.
Among Donohue’s many comments, he had this to say about the offending artist, gallery, and hotel…
They’re morally bankrupt. I want to see them financially bankrupt.
Oh, no, let me tell you something. You’re lucky I’m not as mean, because you might lose more than your head.
(More than your head?) Finally, the interview ended with this…
Look, you lost. You know what? You put your middle finger at the Catholic Church, and we just broke it, didn’t we, pal?
Wait… who is it that’s known for going around, breaking their enemies’ fingers?
Isn’t that what the mafia does?
Bill, I may not be Catholic, but what you say reflects badly on Christians of all stripes. I seem to recall Jesus teaching us to love our enemies. Do good to those who hate us. Bless those who curse us. Pray for those who mistreat us. (Luke 6:27-28)
Wasn’t it one of Jesus’ followers — for Catholics, the first pontiff, no less — who said, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing”? (1 Peter 3:9, TNIV)
I think that means not breaking the fingers of those who offend us. You may have been speaking figuratively, Bill. But what does it say about what’s in your heart, that you reach for a such a violent metaphor to describe how you respond to your enemies?
Aren’t Christians called to be people who bring healing, not inflict injury?