Mmmm … Sacrilicious!

By Mark Trodden | March 30, 2007 6:41 am

The Catholic League is up in arms about Cosimo Cavallaro’s milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, naked on the cross, titled “My Sweet Lord”. (the image is from the BBC article)

Personally, I’m offended for two reasons. First, this is gratuitous use of delicious chocolate that could otherwise be savored with espresso, milk or champagne. I wish sculptors would stick to making religious artwork out of things that aren’t so tasty (the virgin Mary partially made out of elephant dung from a few years ago is a fine example).

Secondly, I’m offended that Catholic League head Bill Donohue called the sculpture

“one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever”.

Really? More of an insult to the supposed Christian ideal of loving one’s brother than the homophobic attitude of the church? More of an insult than the rampant and systematic sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests? More of an insult than the poverty and disease exacerbated by the church’s absurd stances on abortion and birth control, particularly in the third world? Somebody needs a new priority list.

If you like the sound of the piece, or are just a little peckish, go see the exhibit Monday onwards at Manhattan’s Lab Gallery.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Religion
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  • http://irbdavid.com Dave Andrews

    In greatest Slashdot tradition, I call ‘Dupe!’

    Dont go to church on Sunday
    Dont get on my knees to pray
    Dont memorize the books of the Bible
    I got my own special way
    But I know Jesus loves me
    Maybe just a little bit more

    I fall on my knees every Sunday
    At Zerelda Lee’s candy store

    Well its got to be a Chocolate Jesus
    Make me feel good inside
    Got to be a Chocolate Jesus
    Keep me satisfied

    – – Tom Waits, Chocolate Jesus, 1999

  • http://thechocolatefish.blogspot.com/ Yvette

    Perhaps I missed something, but what’s wrong with it that’s so offensive? If it was made out of a nondescript medium such as clay would it be alright?

  • Andrew Conkling

    I subscribed to this blog to hear about science from scientists. But, in the tradition of blogs, only every other post is topical? OK, I’m done here.

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  • Alex

    I’m sure you guys are pretty broken up by Andrew Conkling storming off in a huff. Do you think it’s worth continuing the blog, or will you just be folding up shop?

    Also, I can’t decide whether the title “My Sweet Lord” is the best thing ever, or completely removes this work from consideration as serious art.

  • Elliot

    This looks like it could be an excellent marketing ploy if communion began using chocolate instead of bread. The Catholics ought to think twice about criticizing this before considering how it might actually bring more folks into church.

    I’d look up some appropriate biblical quote to throw in here about chowing down on the body of Christ but I am too upset about Mr. Conklin’s departure. Maybe later.

    Elliot

  • Luke

    I rely on fark to read about stuff like this. Please stick to the science. I know it’s your blog, but this is really lame.

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    Now I’m all hungry.

  • Supernova

    I feel personally slighted by any post that does not contain at least five equations, and I am HIGHLY offended at being FORCED to read posts wherein scientists comment on non-scientific topics. In the future, please confine yourselves to subjects that fit within my strict interpretation of your fields of professional study. We all know you eggheads have no other lives, interests, or areas of expertise. And after all, you are here to provide ME a valuable service, are you not?

  • Dylab

    Less religion posts more physics related cat pictures, please.

  • Orion

    From the ‘About’ section:

    “…the blog is about whatever we find interesting — science, to be sure, but also arts, politics, culture, technology, academia, and miscellaneous trivia.”

  • George

    Just to note, Donahue is a mysoginist bigot. More Catholics hate people like him than support him. That is all, more science please.

  • http://www.allysonbeatrice.com/blog/ Allyson

    Yes. I pay a lot of good money for this blog, Mark, and I want more science.

    Oh, wait…

  • Arun M Thalapillil

    I agree it’s an awful waste of chocolate. =)

  • http://thecrossedpond.com adam

    Really? More of an insult to the supposed Christian ideal of loving one’s brother than the homophobic attitude of the church? More of an insult than the rampant and systematic sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests? More of an insult than the poverty and disease exacerbated by the church’s absurd stances on abortion and birth control, particularly in the third world? Somebody needs a new priority list.

    Strictly speaking, Mark, it looks like you’re taking a list of what you say should be Christian ideals, on which sensibilities will depend, and then claim that the Church is failing to meet those. The Church, on the other hand, would see your fundamental claims rather differently (abortion, for example: if someone believes that the foetus is a human being already imbued by God with its soul, the stance on abortion isn’t absurd. What you disagree about is the status of the foetus). No one, of course, is going to defend child sex abuse because even by the Catholic Church’s own rights, it’s a sin. Is it, as he appears to believe Chocolate Jesus is, a deliberate insult to christian sensibilities, though?

  • Dan

    Hey, at least the sculptor didn’t got hundreds of death threats. A bunch of peaceful priests complaining about a statue made of chocolate? Thank his noodleness it’s only that. We’re not doing so bad.

  • rudy mcgoody

    the question on everyone’s lips is what’s the latest news on clifford’s garden?

    and no, please don’t point me towards his blog.

  • Analyzer

    If the real Jesus were here, he’d say, “Not bad, but I’m actually a bit bigger, if you know what I mean.”

  • Vince

    “More of an insult than the rampant and systematic sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests?”

    Rampant? What do you mean by ‘rampant’, Mark? Can you give me percentages, and other stats, to back up the use of this word, please? After all, you’re a scientist, remember?

    When I think of it, perhaps the thing that is offensive is that this sculpture was made out of chocolate, which tastes really good, and people everywhere enjoy eating it and putting on things, etc. It appeals to the taste buds and nose in a delicious way. However, the crucifixion is anything but appealing. It’s not appealing to the senses, or to the mind. Suppose a Lord in Parliament were murdered right before his mother’s eyes, and then ten years later someone makes a sculpture of his dead body out of chocolate with the title, “My Sweet Lord”. And then the mother picks up the newspaper and sees that sculpture on the front page. Can you imagine how she’d feel?

    Similarly, according to Christian belief, the crucifixion was the gruesome and unjust death (witnessed by his mother) of a man named Jesus, who was a good guy, a healer, a teacher, etc. And he was the “Son of God”, again according to the belief of over a billion people. For Muslims, he was only a really cool prophet. Nevertheless, you can see that it would offend people to sculpt this gruesome event, with the subject being a man honored and worshipped by lots of people, out of chocolate and then calling it “My Sweet Lord”.

    I know, it’s art , yadda yadda. I’m just saying, don’t be surprised by the reactions, and I say they’re perfectly justifying in reacting this way. I agree, at least there aren’t any threats of violence, etc. That would totally be unChristian.

  • BP
  • Steve

    I still can’t believe Donohue is allowed to open his yap on TV. Although it does make great fodder material for The Daily Show.

  • Vince

    Hip Hip Hooray!

    Let’s move on. Any scandalous papers in physics or other papers written in bad taste? Anything interesting happening in the world of physics? Surely there’s something out there.

  • EG

    RE: Percentages on the church’s rampant sexual abuse of children.

    The problem with getting statistics on this is that, by all accounts, whenever such abuse was detected by the church, it systematically did everything in it’s power to COVER IT UP! Not all of the clergy are paedophiles or their protectors. But I find it breathtaking at how common such behaviour appears to have been, and how high up the collusion in covering it up appears to have gone.

    Still, perhaps rampant is too strong a term. How about frequent?

    Now, I think I’d have to agree with adam’s implication that the motivation one might infer of the artist from the work, namely to cause insult Christian sensibilities (though I think whether this was the artists overarching intent is arguable), is different from that of the Church, which was clearly to choose between what it saw as the lesser of two evils, namely the abuse of children against bringing the name of the Church into disrepute.

    These are clearly different things. One is name calling and the other is pure evil. Even an atheist can see that.

  • Pseudonym

    Why does it remind me of this Onion article?

  • John Phillips

    What I find intreresting is the number of visitors to this post in particular who feel it is their place to decide what should appear on your blog. Wonder if it has anything ot do with the subject of this post, which could be construed as a critcism of the church, nah, couldn’t be that could it.

  • Ryan Scranton

    It’s a chocolate Jesus, meant to be displayed around Easter. Does being Catholic mean having no sense of humor whatsoever in Donovan’s world? Maybe if the artist had done up the Holy Ghost holding up bunny ears behind Jesus’ head, more people would have gotten the joke…

  • Jack

    “Wonder if it has anything ot do with the subject of this post, which could be construed as a critcism of the church, nah, couldn’t be that could it. ”

    You’re right. I don’t give a shit about Catholic sensibilities. But the fact is that this blog has gotten really boring. Gee, will Hillary win? Good thing we can find out here, I mean it’s not like there are 3 billion other blogs discussing that.

  • Analyzer

    When I think of it, perhaps the thing that is offensive is that this sculpture was made out of chocolate, which tastes really good, and people everywhere enjoy eating it and putting on things, etc.

    Catholics believe that they eat Jesus’s flesh and drink his blood every week.

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  • Jegge

    For real art, let’s see him try a chocolate Prophet Mohammed next.

  • http://quantumnonsense.blogspot.com/ Qubit

    Maybe they should make miniature versions and start selling them at Easter instead of Easter eggs.

    Jesus is an imaginary person, who is made up out of several older religions and beliefs of cosmic symbols of life and rebirth. Which was change into the eternal rose, then changed into a crucifix with a man on it that represents the original cosmic symbol.

    These symbols are on them stone ossuary’s that James Cameron is going on about.

    I have one of these symbols at home carved on a bit of wood, it is probably medieval, it has two rosette surrounded by a figure of 8 which represent eternity and one of the roses is carved out make it look like its rotating, the other is not rotating, it representation of life and rebirth surrounded by eternity.

    If I made it into chocolate it would have the same symbolism of “my sweet lord”, except about only 2 % of the population would know what it represents.

    It’s a shame that the church as taken history and changed it without a time machine!

    Qubit

  • Vince

    Dear Mark,

    I found something pretty cool. Check out http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=9009
    and http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/31/world/europe/31france.html

    This is so cool. It has to do with miracles, which is something you brought up before. This seems like a good case for a scientist, such as yourself, to investigate. Aren’t you interested in the results. I agree, the conditions for such a scientific investigation aren’t exactly that good, but surely there are medical records, etc.

    “Still, perhaps rampant is too strong a term. How about frequent?”

    Nah, that’s also a misleading term. Show me statistics.

    “Does being Catholic mean having no sense of humor whatsoever in Donovan’s world?”

    There’s nothing funny about someone being crucified, is there? I’m sure Catholics have senses of humor, but there are just certain things you don’t make fun of. And it’s not just Catholic sensibilities that this deals with, it’s all of Christianity.

    “Jesus is an imaginary person, who is made up out of several older religions and beliefs of cosmic symbols of life and rebirth. Which was change into the eternal rose, then changed into a crucifix with a man on it that represents the original cosmic symbol…It’s a shame that the church as taken history and changed it without a time machine!”

    Do you have proof of this, Qubit? If so, please submit it to the New York Times or something. I’m sure the world would love to see it.

  • Vince

    I forgot to add that it might appear that there’s slightly more proof that the former pope is in Heaven than there is proof that the multiverse, branes, etc. exists. :)

    See, Catholics do have a sense of humor. I hope everyone has a great day, and remember to keep physics fun.

  • Brian

    Good sport, perhaps, goosing a few intolerant, self-righteous Christians. And Mark’s point about misplaced priorities is well-taken. But I find the expressions of dismay that a person might take offense at having that which he cherishes treated with what he would consider contempt disingenuous. For instance, I would object to a chocolate statue of my naked mother. Now, of course, if it’s Belgian chocolate….

  • TBB

    I don’t know about anyone else, but when I first saw the Chocolate Christ picture I thought of the ending scene in the movie The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover where the evil husband is laid out like a roast on the dining table. (It’s a difficult movie to stomach.)

    Having been raised on a wine and bread communion, thus symbolizing the taking in of “the body and blood of Christ,” I can’t help but think of melting this down to a fondue and offerred as communion; after all, the pagan rites of eggs, and subsequently candy, are associated with Easter anyway. (Darn pagans!) That may seem sacreligious, but it makes sense to me. Too bad the Whiner Brigade didn’t think of it first. :-/

    Bloomberg’s comment was good.

  • Vince

    One more comment:

    “Really? More of an insult to the supposed Christian ideal of loving one’s brother than the homophobic attitude of the church? More of an insult than the rampant and systematic sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests? More of an insult than the poverty and disease exacerbated by the church’s absurd stances on abortion and birth control, particularly in the third world? Somebody needs a new priority list.”

    I agree that these priorities you’ve listed are much more important than the sculpture (Although the only policy that can be interpreted as homophobia, in my humble opinion, is the kind of screening they’re doing for applicants to the seminary.) but they’re matters for the Vatican, not the Catholic League I don’t think, and they’re matters concerning Church teaching/policy.

    How about that nun in the news? 😉

  • http://huperborea.blogspot.com/ Robert O’Brien

    Jesus is an imaginary person, who is made up out of several older religions and beliefs of cosmic symbols of life and rebirth.

    No, Jesus was historical, despite the assertions of a low-rent “documentary” to the contrary.

  • Brian

    “No, Jesus was historical….”

    Right. No one is going to make up a guy who says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

  • Vince

    I agree, Robert and Brian.

    Nor is anybody going to write about guy who lived around Galilea and drew huge crowds of people around him in that region if he knew it was a lie. Nor will people martyr themselves for a lie or write about guys named Peter and Paul who got martyred in Rome (the center of the frickin’ world) for following a guy named Jesus if it was all a lie.

  • Nick

    Vince,
    Do you think the deceased Pope John Paul II had a hand in changing the laws of nature to heal this nun of her Parkinson’s? Why or why not?

  • Brian

    “Nor will people martyr themselves for a lie….”

    What about Muslim terrorists?

  • Nick

    “Nor will people martyr themselves for a lie…”

    What if they don’t know it’s a “lie”?

  • Nick

    “Nor will people martyr themselves for a lie…”

    Heaven’s Gate.

  • Vince

    Nick,

    I don’t know if that’s what happened. But the story sure sounds interesting. I do believe that it’s possible, because, you see, God can do anything not contrary to His nature. Also, if she did get miraculously healed, John Paul II didn’t do it. The nun and the other nuns prayed to him to intercede on their behalf. If there was miraculous healing, it came from God, not the former pope.

    Brian and Nick,

    I’m not sure about Muslim terrorists. What I do know is that if a government is threatening to kill me because I keep yammering about a guy I met, yet I’m completely making it up, I would say, “Sorry. It was a lie. Please don’t hurt me.” It’s not worth dying for an imaginary friend.

    Deep down, those particular Muslims are dying for Muhammad, and I’m sure in every age there were people dying for Muhammad, and I’m sure the first people who died for Muhammad didn’t die for him if they knew he never existed.

  • Vince

    Nick,

    “Do you think the deceased Pope John Paul II had a hand in changing the laws of nature to heal this nun of her Parkinson’s? Why or why not?”

    If that’s what happened, I don’t think God would have changed the laws of nature. He would have just “disobeyed” the laws of nature and healed her.
    Anyway, it’s being investigated, according to the articles.

  • Nick

    If Parkinson’s is a natural disease, and the nun’s healing was not natural, then somewhere and at sometime, the laws of nature must have changed. Yes?

  • Vince

    If the nun’s healing was not natural, then how did it happen as a material process following a new set of physical laws? Maybe “natural” for you means following the laws of physics as they are now for our universe.

    Anyway, maybe the healing wasn’t a mechanistic process following a new set of physical laws.

    Or perhaps God caused the 6 extra dimensions to compactify differently. I don’t know.

  • http://quantumnonsense.blogspot.com/ Qubit

    Vince “proof”, what happen to common sense! People just are not resurrected after being crucified, they are DEAD! Forever.

    No, Jesus was historical, despite the assertions of a low-rent “documentary” to the contrary.

    I would not know I have never seen it Robert. I was taking about the desgin on them stone ossuary’s. These were probably very common in that time.

    http://images.ctv.ca/archives/CTVNews/img2/20070226/160_ap_tomb2_070226.jpg

    Armenian cosmic symbols

    http://www.armenianhighland.com/images/nkarner/nkar_3814.jpg

    Qubit

  • Vince

    “Vince “proof”, what happen to common sense! People just are not resurrected after being crucified, they are DEAD! Forever.”

    The first sentence is a bit awkward, but I think I get what you’re saying. Common sense isn’t always correct, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Anyway, I’m saying Jesus wasn’t made up, and I’m not sure how resurrection came up in the discussion. Anyway, the truth is that I can’t prove to you that resurrection happens and you can’t prove to me that resurrection doesn’t happen (That is, as long as resurrection happens “in Heaven”, and not in our universe — assuming, of course, that there is a “spiritual realm” and that the material universe isn’t all there is. But hey, if physicists can advocate the notion of the multiverse, which is directly unobservable — not to mention branes in string theory — I can advocate the notion that there’s a Heaven.)

    But, assuming Jesus isn’t imaginary, something happened to him after he died, and after he died a whole bunch of people started preaching that he was resurrected, and died for preaching it.

    Resurrection is a belief that Christians have, and you can choose to believe in it or not. But hey, if that French nun, along with her fellow sisters and mothers, are telling the truth, then I guess resurrection does happen.

    Have a nice day.

  • http://predelusional.blogspot.com/ Stephen Uitti

    rampant and systematic sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests?

    Unlike Vince and EG, i have no problem with rampant. But systematic is a little harsh. Unless you count that stupid idea of having celibate priests. For one, it’s not Biblical. The Bible says “celebrate”. Expect erratic erotic behavior from the extremely horny.

  • http://quantumnonsense.blogspot.com/ Qubit

    There is one way it could happen, resurrection could be possible if Christ was not a person, in the same sense as we are. He would have to be a object escaping from a black hole, or part of the information of an object escaping from a complex type of Black Hole ( A gravitational Mind ) in order to become real. Pinocchio’s conscience so to speak. There may be a dark star orbiting our solar system, the Suns twin and it could come close to the earth at certain times or even pass through it.

    I could go into a bit more detail, but it has nothing to do with A Chocolate Jesus.

  • Vince

    Stephen,

    rampant sort of means that it’s happening everywhere, everytime, and, in particular, that most priests do it. which isn’t true. And you have failed to provide stats

  • Vince

    You see, Stephen, you need facts and figures to support your view that ‘rampant’ is the appropriate term to use. So, if the Higgs boson is discovered by a team at the LHC, they’ll need to provide the required observations and figures that show that the Higgs boson was produced. Please don’t let your prejudice against the Catholic Church cloud your judgment about the appropriateness of a particular term.

    Where does the Bible say “celebrate”, out of curiosity, and in what context? I would like to look it up. There are many many priests who successfully live out their vocation. Trust me, I know my own Church.

    Qubit,

    Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t know how (except that it was done by God), and I don’t know how different the risen body is from the body before death, but that’s the belief. This is different from the kind of resurrection that is supposed to happen to regular people since we see the body of the person decay on Earth. Now, you may think “how convenient that Christians teach that Jesus rose from the dead when there’s virtually no way to prove that he didn’t, yet they also teach that regular people don’t rise from the dead but still get resurrected into some form.” and that’s fine. But that’s the belief, like it or not.

  • Nick

    I agree with Qubit’s “common sense.” However, people seem to have the capacity to “believe” anything.

  • Vince

    Oh well.

  • cynic

    This noisome object, was it made with a mould taken from a living male model, or is it a carving? If the latter is the case it’s a masterpiece, almost worthy of Michaelangelo; the subversion of such technical viruosity in a silly easter joke would have a style and chutzpah of the first order. I fear it might be the former though; it’s easier to plaster cast a dick than it is to carve drapery. In which case the whimsical title, the insult it has caused etc. are about as boring as rest of the tiresome CV anti religious bollocks, which, increasingly, tends to drive the discerning reader off to look at Dr Johnson’s garden.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.

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