Saturday, April 14, 2007
Chocolate Jesus
You may have heard about the controversial sculpture, "My Sweet Jesus", a life size replica of Jesus on the cross made entirely out of milk chocolate. It was loudly condemned by some members of the Catholic Church, including Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, who called it "a sickening display" and "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

Really? One of the worst assaults? Frankly I can think of way worse assaults on Christian sensibilities than this - like the fact that most of our chocolate is produced by child slaves in the first place. And really, what is so offensive about this sculpture? The medium? (What's wrong with chocolate?) The fact that he's naked? (Historically speaking, he probably was.) Why not instead say that it's a positive representation of Christ - that he's being compared to the sweetness of chocolate? Why are some Christians so hypersensitive to criticism and afraid to hear or see anything that might be slightly unusual or disconcerting?

Personally I can see all kinds of other good interpretations of this piece. Maybe it's a commentary on the chocolate slave trade and identifies the suffering of Christ with the suffering of those poor children. Or maybe it's a commentary on the superficiality of our Easter celebrations - all the candy, and eggs, and bunnies - and the sculpture is to help remind us what is really important during this holiday.

When we close our minds to provocative art, we miss all those possibilities and our view of the world gets a little narrower.


posted by Mike Clawson at 10:09 AM | Permalink |


At 4/14/2007 12:23:00 PM, Blogger Richard Wade

When the first TV reports came out about this controversy the only objection I heard people making was that the figure is nude. This was so "offensive" to the church nearby that they successfully pressured the gallery to close the exhibit. What silly prudishness and artistic ignorance. Actually the loincloth is a more recent feature in representations of Christ. Many of the older paintings of him had the loincloth painted on years later as people became increasingly neurotic about nudity. So too were the fig leaves painted on over the original nude figures of Adam and Eve. Can you imagine making a living as an artist by putting pants on somebody else's paintings?


At 4/14/2007 04:06:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

The nudity thing is beyond absurd. Are these people completely ignorant of the history of art? The nude figure is standard fare in the art world. Would they put pants on the David for instance?


At 4/14/2007 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Richard Wade

Yes, they're completely ignorant of art history, and yes they would put pants on David if they could. It has been tried. When Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Ceiling some cardinals expressed objections to the amount of nudity in his figures, saying that it resembled a greek temple, not the house of God. Fortunately the Pope was a little more enlightened.

Desert cultures have a tough time with nakedness. Forest cultures are comfortable with it.


At 4/14/2007 10:43:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Though as I remember from my tour of the Vatican, they did succeed in putting loincloths on a lot of the figures in the Last Judgment on the far wall of the Sistine Chapel.

I'm not sure about your generalization of Desert vs. Forest cultures, though if it's accurate, it's kind of strange. You'd think the hotter it is the less clothes the culture would want to require. :) (Though I guess if you live in Scandanavia you don't really need to have any cultural norms to help encourage people to bundle up. :D )


At 4/15/2007 02:51:00 AM, Blogger Richard Wade

I'm not sure why, my mind went back to an article in Discover Magazine in 2005

about cultures originating in desert terrain supplanting cultures originating in forest terrain. I think of the religions of the middle east as desert cultures that have migrated into forest cultures such as the indigenous cultures of Europe, Asia and the Americas. Wherever they have established a foothold they have immediately put pants on the "naked savages" and taught them to link nudity and sex where they did not originally have an automatic association, and then to be ashamed of both. Then they introduced the religion as the only agent that can take away the shame through its specific blessing. To me it's the saddest of all the effects on people. It makes them very neurotic about their sexual and sensual nature. Please note I'm not attacking theological issues here, just what I see as a powerful tool used to control people, not bring them closer to God.
The climate and temperature issue seems to have nothing to do with it and makes no sense. That part's a mystery to me. Being covered from head to toe in the desert would kill me in about five minutes.


At 4/16/2007 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Arni

Good post. I totally agree with you. The sculpture can be interpreted in so many interesting and illuminating ways. You name some of them. The most natural reading for me is a eucharistic one. The sculpture was suppose to be eaten on Easter, right? We eat the flesh of Christ - why not the chocolate of Christ? I can't help but to think about the theological implications of eating Christ's, err, member. I don't know if I could do it, which says something about I (and Christianity in general) view sexuality and how vital it is to change that.


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