Monday, April 02, 2007

Respect My Chocolate Jesus

Three news items of religious groups demanding respect.
i) A planned Holy Week exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, entitled My Sweet Lord, was cancelled after Cardinal Edward Egan and other outraged Catholics complained, describing the sculpture as a "sickening display." Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and features Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. Unlike the typical religious portrayal of Christ, the Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.

The gallery owner ultimately cancelled the event because death threats had been issued against the artist and staff at the gallery. As David T at UK blog, Harry's Place, opines,

So, if you'd like to get an event or exhibition cancelled, the trick is to issue death threats.

ii) Last week The Bishop of Rome's ambassador to the UN addressed its Human Rights Council on Thursday, calling for religious belief to be respected.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi asked the Council to legislate against

"A public insult to religious feelings." And to "set aside the respect of concrete the interest of rights of religious freedom and freedom of expression."

What is a "concrete religion"? Presumably one that has been around long enough to gather a critical mass of followers. Obviously the Archbishop would define Catholicism as a concrete religion. I guess he would include Islam too but what about Piratism?

iii) And finally, on Friday the newly formed United Nations Human Rights Council pushed through a resolution urging a "global prohibition on the public defamation of religion."

Steve at the Pub Philosopher sums up my own feelings better than I can,

I find the suggestion that I should be compelled to respect someone else's religion abhorrent. I am happy to respect their right to follow that religion but that's as far as it goes.
Why should I respect the belief that some old man in Rome is God's representative on Earth, or that a few Latin words mumbled over a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone turn it into the blood of Christ, or that a book written by the followers of a desert warlord is the Almighty's final word? I would never try to stop people from believing this stuff, or from conducting any of the rituals that go along with it but , in return, I expect the followers of these religions to allow me to express my opinions.

Disclaimer; unlike Steve, i am a Christian. I believe in, and worship Jesus Christ. It is a very personal and rich relationship that i have entered into. Non-believers will not be able to understand this, but i ask them to tolerate my views. I would even ask them to respect my beliefs and not to ridicule them. I would ask this, but i would not demand this.

My own views on this sculpture are that this is a very puerile, attention-seeking, dull piece of work. I also suspect that the artist, Cavallaro, would not dare make a similar sculpture of Mohammed, and hence is a coward and a bully looking for an easy target.

As Norm reminds us,

Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states,

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.