Bill Donohue and the big chocolate Jesus

The Catholic League bully is fixated on the cocoa genitals of a 6-foot sculpture of Christ on the cross, but I see a sly play on Easter commercialism and the myth of a white Jesus.


Joan Walsh
March 29, 2007 7:44PM (UTC)

"NAKED JESUS--GENITALS EXPOSED--CRUCIFIED"

Yikes. That's the headline on an e-mail I woke up to this morning, from big bad Catholic League president Bill Donohue. He's complaining that next week, just before Easter, New York's Roger Smith Hotel gallery will display a "6-foot tall anatomically correct sculpture of Jesus in milk chocolate; the figure is depicted as crucified." To see the sculpture, Donohue instructed me, "Click here."

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OK, I clicked. Admittedly, I'm not getting the full effect of artist Cosimo Cavallaro's work "My Sweet Lord" looking at a photo on the Web. But somehow, it wasn't nearly as disturbing as billed. It's not gory or sadomasochistic or pornographic, as Donohue's headline suggested. Chances are Jesus was naked when he was crucified, although most Catholic iconography shows him draped with cloth. The real issue seems to be depicting a chocolate Jesus, which to me slyly plays on the near-certainty that Jesus was more chocolate-colored than the vanilla man depicted in Western church art, as well as the commercialization of Easter, in which most Christians eat yummy chocolate eggs and bunnies rather than ponder the troubling mysteries of Christ's life and death.

Ah, but no troubling mysteries for Big Bill Donohue! No suggesting Catholics and other Christians have commercialized Easter! No suggesting that Jesus was chocolate-colored! There are anti-Catholic bigots to fight, or better yet, to invent. Cavallaro's "My Sweet Lord" struck me as, well, sweet. It definitely didn't scream "NAKED JESUS--GENITALS EXPOSED--CRUCIFIED." But then, like so much art, it's a bit of a Rorschach test, and Donohue's horror at the big chocolate Jesus gives us much more disturbing insight into his character than into Cosimo Cavallaro's.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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