Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Sweet Lord Denounced

Let us now celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the day we commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerualem, a week that will include Holy Thursday and the memory of his last Passover meal, along with Good Friday when he was crucified and Easter when he arose from the dead.
Today is also April Fool's Day, and in New York they have removed "My Sweet Lord," the sculpture of Jesus made from dark chocolate by artist Cosimo Cavallaro from the offended eyes of people of faith passing by the window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery where the life-sized chocolate Jesus had hung. The exhibit was to have opened today.

The protest against the sculpture, a naked a pony-tailed Jesus, was led by the 300,000-strong and decidedly right-wing Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights which had called on 500 religious and secular groups to boycott the Roger Smith Hotel which houses the art gallery.

Can't they take a joke?

"They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammad naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan," said Kiera McCaffrey, the League's spokesperson.

New York's archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan, called the sculpture "scandalous" and a "sickening display."

On the other hand, the gallery's artistic director Maqtthew Semler, resigned to protest the cancellation of the exhibit. "I saw it as meditation on all those issues: the fact that it's chocolate, the fact that it's nude, that the chocolate is black," he said.

The artist is well-known for his installations with food. He covered a hotel room in Washington with cheese in 1999 and sprayed cheese over the interior of a house in Wyoming two years later, all in the cause of culinary art. In 1999, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now running for president, tried to withdraw a grant from the Brooklyn Museum of Art for a painting showing the Virgin Mary as a black woman splattered with elephant dung and adorned with cut-outs from pornographic magazines. He was unsuccessful.

When I heard the title, "My Sweet Lord," I laughed, despite the respect and devotion I feel towards Jesus, the prophet, teacher and transformer of the world. It reminded me of George Harrison's wonderful song of the same name which praises Krishna, the god of the Hindus. It later turned out that his melody was so close to a 1962 hit by the Chiffons called "He's So Fine" that the former Beatle was forced to pay restitution for plagiarism. Harrison, who later bought the rights to the original song, was found by the court to have copied the melody unintentionally.

Jesus, on this Sunday of palms, can never be confined within the institutional church's definitions. Let him be sweet, naked, and made out of dark chocolate.

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