Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chocolate Jesus, con men and liberty

It wasn’t that long ago that people were excoriating Muslims who found the cartoons of Mohammad, even respectful cartoons, offensive. What often went unnoticed, as the West was rightfully heaping scorn on those rampaging and rioting, is that the Catholic hierarchy was siding with the Muslims.

There are two positions one can take. One is that you favor freedom of speech even when it is offensive to groups, even religious groups. The other is that you oppose freedom of speech especially when it offends religious groups and you don’t care which religious group. The Vatican and their underlings took the latter view. It is no surprise since the Roman Catholic Church has been quite consistently the enemy of free speech. In fact they have a strong tradition of opposing liberalism, and I mean specifically classical liberalism, right from the birth of liberalism.

The Vatican has quite consistently supported a feudalistic order with topdown controls and with the Church having its fingers in all the pies. It has consistently opposed economic liberalism and opted for something more akin to classic fascism than socialism or perhaps a hybrid between the two, though admittedly it is often difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. To have the Vatican oppose free minds is no more surprising than their consistent opposition to free markets.

So they were quite consistent in their anti-liberalism when they denounced the sculptor who intended to display a life size sculpture of Jesus made out of chocolate. Had he done it out of plaster they might have paid him. But chocolate is apparently sacrilegious or heretical. I never can keep up with the taboos of the theological inclined. They are too numerous for me to remember even if I were concerned about the matter.

Just as the Islamists distorted and twisted the gravity of the Danish cartoons the Catholic Right is indulging in distortion, hyperbole and deceit. William Donohue, a fixture on the extreme Religious Right went into fits. He called the sculpture “an all-out war on Christianity.” Of course it is. It is the Hiroshima of Catholicism, the Dresden of Christianity. As far as wars go this is not even a skirmish. And if Donohue and his friends had kept their traps shut the entire “art” show would have gone with barely a notice. If any one is making religion look silly it is not the sculptor, who I think only makes himself and those who laud his “work” look silly, but it is those who are raising such a ruckus.

I have mentioned Pieter-Dirk Uys before. He is the comedian from South Africa who used to ridicule the apartheid regime mercilessly and hilariously. Every time a new show of his debuted he would write a pseudonymous complaint to the Chief Censor (of course they had one) denouncing his show as obscene, offensive, blasphemous and any thing else that he could think of. The Chief Censor dutifully would condemn the show bringing all the more interest in it guaranteeing a large audience once the court case was won.

I hate to quote a politician favorably, just on principle, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right: "If you want to give the guy some publicity, talk more about it, make a big fuss. If you want to really hurt him, don't pay attention."

Mr. Donohue is, in some ways, the puppet of this two-bit artist. The Danish cartoon incident only meant that newspapers around the world published the cartoons and web sites were anxious to display. The radical Islamists only managed to disseminate the cartoons even farther. This protest only pushes the career of the artist who made the sculpture and encourages other mediocrities to go out and do likewise.

Donohue exaggerated even further. He said: “It’s always Christians, and the timing is deliberate.” I believe that Christians, especially Catholics, are going into a period where they are supposedly to be especially religious. Which, of course, they have every right to do.

But it wasn’t that long ago that the Muslims were saying it’s only Muslims who get insulted. They were told they were overly sensitive. And they were. Much like Mr. Donohue is overly sensitive. Just as Donohue was insanely exaggerating that the sculptor amounted to “all-out war” so is he distorting the facts when it says “It’s always Christians.” This is an example of what I mean when I say the Religious Right has picked up the most disgusting habits of the PC Left.

They are quick to cry they are victims, quick to demand that others surrender their freedom in order not to offend them. The problem is that the more deeply religious people become the easier it becomes to offend them and the fewer freedoms that normal have left. For the fundamentalist merely existing as a non-fundamentalist (even if a Christian) is something that bothers them to no end. These are people offended at the mere thought that other people indulge their right to live their own life without permission from the Church/Pope/Bible, insert whatever is appropriate.

Of course it is hard to ignore the fact that Donohue runs a political group that solicits donations from people who are offended by such things. So it behoves him to exaggerate every such incident he finds as that is his bread and butter. As long as he uncovers and publicizes incidents like this, which might otherwise go unnoticed, the more donations he rakes in for the cause. Memberships go from $15 for students to $1000 for a lifetime membership so the more offended Catholics he creates the higher the income of his outfit and I assume that impacts his income as well. His financial rewards increase the more he makes mountains out of molehills.

Donahue’s group says they want to fight bigotry against Catholics. A noble cause no doubt. This movement to deny Catholics the right to marry has to be nipped in the bud. Or did I get that confused? Sorry, it was Catholics like Donahue who were pushing legislation to deny other people the right to get married. Now, I remember. It is the effort to stop individuals who want to censor Catechism books that they are working on. Or do I have that backwards again?

Isn’t it interesting that that with advocates of Statism that half the time they are seeking victims for the State to oppress and the other half of the time they are crying they are victims of oppression?

The problem with people like Donohue is that their extreme religiosity and over sensitivity makes it very difficult to avoid offending them. In that sense they are very much like some radical feminists I’ve run into. What makes it worse is that this sort of intolerant, hypersensitivity actually encourages people to take the Mickey out of them. (Hmm, Mickey? Is that Irish? If Irish is that Catholic? Have I just committed another bigotry against Catholics? Somebody call Donohue and tell him. This web site could use the publicity.) Apparently Mr. Donohue hasn't notice that one of the "bigoted" images that the Church runs into frequently is that it is portrayed as wanting to control the lives of others. If that is an unfair stereotype then certainly it is one encouraged by Donohue's actions.

From what I’ve read the people who really ought to be offended are artists with real talent. The artists in this case sounds like a real con man to me, which no doubt means he’s well-known and praised by the advocates of modern art. Quit honestly, in this dispute, I don’t much care for the artist or for Donahue. Actually I dislike them both as con men. My position is one that is easy to figure out. I side with liberty.

Photo: The chocolate Jesus that has propelled political and artistic mediocrities into the spotlight to the benefit of both.