The display of a life-size, anatomically correct Jesus at an Easter exhibition has been cancelled after a meltdown by Christian critics, including William Donahue of the Catholic League. The hotel in which the exhibition would have appeared booted the display after people began organizing a boycott:
A Manhattan art gallery canceled on Friday its Easter-season exhibit of a life-size chocolate sculpture depicting a naked Jesus, after an outcry by Roman Catholics.
The sculpture “My Sweet Lord” by Cosimo Cavallaro was to have been exhibited for two hours each day next week in a street-level window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.
The display had been scheduled to open on Monday, days ahead of Good Friday when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus. But protests including a call to boycott the affiliated Roger Smith Hotel forced the gallery to scrap the showing.
Numerous bloggers have already weighed in on this controversy, and Joe Gandelman has prepared a balanced roundup. Michelle Malkin and My Pet Jawa both make the comparison to the expected Muslim reaction to a naked, genitalia-displaying chocolate Mohammed during Ramadan — or Eid, or any day ending in a Y, for that matter. Preemptive Karma and Best Week Ever claim that it perfectly satirizes the contemporary Christian celebration of Easter as thoroughly commercialized, with chocolate bunnies taking center stage rather than the resurrected Lord.
If that’s the basis for the chocolate Jesus, though, it’s rather thin. No doubt that many people, most of them Christians, spend tons of money on sweets and indulge silly fantasies about magical rabbits when celebrating Easter. If that’s all they did, it would be worthy of satire. However, almost all of that is employed to give small children a day of fun, a little bit of joy that does no one any harm and gives dentists some extra work. Christians who celebrate Easter are most likely to also spend the day in worship of God and in thanks for the sacrifice they consider the bedrock of their faith, and in gatherings of family to commemorate the day.
The artist could have made his satirical point in any case without showing the genitalia of the crucified Christ. That was needlessly provocative, and certainly intentional. As one person put it, who wouldn’t have expected controversy over that particular artistic choice? The artist’s assertion that Catholics should let him off with ten Hail Marys after he asks their forgoveness also shows a cluelessness about the Catholic faith. Penance only works when the sinner has truly repented and admitted his sins. It’s not a price list for offenses in that the commission of a particular sin costs 10 Hail Marys each time you commit it. For Cosimo Cavallaro to get any benefit from his 10 Hail Marys, he’d have to destroy the chocolate Jesus first.
However, I wouldn’t demand that in any case. I can’t peer into his soul to determine whether he meant to be deliberately sacrilegious or is just an idiot who didn’t know any better. What the Catholics and other Christians did was perfectly legitimate — boycotting the host and sponsors of exhibits they find offensive. They didn’t toss bombs at embassies or threated to destroy New York for blasphemy. Given the sympathetic press that Muslims around the world received for doing exactly that — including the murder of a Catholic nun — after the publication of editorial cartoons that depicted Muhammed, the sympathy granted to Cavallaro for his “oppression” in this seems far out of balance to the event.