Sunday, April 01, 2007

My sweet Lord

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

- John 6.53 (NRSV)

A sculpture which was to be exhibited in Manhatten over Easter has been cancelled due to protests from Christians (BBC story here). The artwork depicts a life-sized naked Jesus with arms extended as though crucified (though without a cross) made entirely from chocolate. Appropriately, it is entitled 'My sweet Lord'.*
*I would include an image, but I suspect that would infringe copyright. Just go to the BBC site.

A comment quoted from the lead protester called the piece "an assault on Christians" and went on to say, "They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the Prophet Mohammed naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan."

Even if this were an assault on Christians, censorship is not the answer. We don't glorify God by forcefully silencing blasphemy. I have often received emails asking me to contribute to some protest (usually by adding my name to a worthless email petition) against some allegedly scandalous piece of art. I have always declined.

In fact, I think this attitude and approach demonstrates a shallow grasp of art, government and theology. Not only is a chocolate Jesus at Easter at least a mildly interesting comment on contemporary practices of Easter celebration, and not only are Christians not simply one more minority interest group amongst others (who need to stand up for our rights because no one else will), but the quote misses a crucial difference between Christianity and Islam.

Christians worship a Lord whose glory consists in his humble obedience. It was precisely because Jesus was obedient even to the point of a horrendous and shameful death that he received the name above every name, the divine name (Philippians 2.9-11). The pain and humiliation of the cross are therefore not to be hidden away, but consistute the crowning glory of Jesus' faithfulness. To display a naked and vulnerable Jesus, a frail, meltable, edible Jesus is to speak of Christ crucified - foolishness, yet God's wisdom.


Anonymous said...


I might also add that the vulnerability that is being exposed here is a Christianity that has lost its Messiah to the foibles of Western consumerism. Considering the level of homogeneity between Christianity and conservative/reactionary politics in certain countries, I rather suspect that the artist has put his/her finger on the spot.

Drew said...

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." ps.73:25

It is an excellent comment on easter, I think!

Aric Clark said...

how is a chocolate Jesus any more strange or offensive than the eucharist? What about Ezekiel's honey-flavoured scroll? What about the psalmist exclaiming 'taste and see that the Lord is good'?

I think what they REALLY find offensive is the nudity and that's just good old-fashioned American prudery at play there, which I think we can safely ignore as having any relevance to the faith.

Aric Clark said...

mind you I AM an American, before any American's go taking offense.

byron smith said...

how is a chocolate Jesus any more strange or offensive than the eucharist?
Indeed, or more offensive than the 'difficult teaching' of John 6 with which I began, and which sent many disciples scurrying to call the local paper and generate email petitions about boycotting Jesus from then on.

byron smith said...

Ah yes, I should have called this post 'Taste and see that the Lord is good'!

Christopher said...

I wonder if the sculpture was inspired by the Tom Waits song "Chocolate Jesus".
Well it's got to be a chocolate Jesus Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Keep me satisfied

Fearsome Pirate said...

the quote misses a crucial difference between Christianity and Islam.

I think the crucial difference is that when you do something of this nature, the likelihood that an enraged Christian cleric will issue a fatwa against you that culiminates in some thug slitting your throat is pretty low.

byron smith said...

Josh, that may or may not be true, but I think more interesting is the question why: the difference in logic regarding how to face opposition.

Jonathan said...

Spot on. How can this representation of how the author of our salvation was made perfect by offensive?

But there is more being missed than this difference between Christianity and Islam, isn't there? Even if there were a good enough reason to speak up against something offensive, it would not be because it was an assault on Christians, but an assault on God.

When Goliath defied the Israelite army, what mattered to David was that he had defied God. When we reverse this and take insults to God as an assault on us, we have our priorities wrong even before deciding how to respond.

Anonymous said...

I guess the thing is that they'd say it was offensive to God.

I see Byron's point about Jesus humiliation in obeying God, yet also feel uncomfortable with the item itself... maybe I'm just a prude. So I probably wouldn't go to see it. There, that's my protest!

But I wouldn't bother putting my name on any list, especially when I don't know what behaviours the owners of the list are going to indulge. If anything, that kind of behaviour could be what the artist was seeking anyway... the boringly predictable "controversy" publicity.

Who cares? Isn't that just so 60's?

On an aside: Hey, wasn't that ultimately the real motive behind the Dada art movement anyway? Get them in, let them demonstrate their own participation in the meaningless of life (and art) by destroying some, and create a controversial new approach to art and philosophy, while also filling the art halls and generating some revenue. It all comes down to the buck.

And I won't be contributing mine. :-) It's a free country.

Anonymous said...

HI Byron - Haven't had a chance to check out your blog for a while...I look and you're talking about chocolate and the gospel... That's me all over (PhD topic = chocolate).

I reckon this is such a quirky, yet poignant image...

Anyway, I thinks that there is an added level of irony or something in making a chocolate Jesus. Consider the meaning of the latin botanical name for the cocoa tree: Theobroma cacao - theobroma means food of god(s).
Jesus is the bread of life, the chocolate from God...maybe I'm taking it a bit far :)... anyway that's all

Aric Clark said...


That is just a thoroughly AWESOME little factoid. That settles it for me. I want a chocolate Jesus statue in my house (if it wouldn't melt everywhere!)

Anonymous said...

There are remarkable similarities to the storm in a cistern over Andre Serrano's "Piss Christ". It only highlighted the religious community's ongoing anxieties about the abject, the profane and the body, instead of embracing a dialogue on the humiliation and the scandal of the cross...