Chocolate Jesus

This week in New York an exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus was canceled after Cardinal Edward Egan and some other pissed off Catholics complained. This raises the hairs on the back of the hairs on the back of my neck. Catholics -- okay, Christians... okay, religious people of every race, nation and disposition toward chocolate, have to be able to take it if they want to dish it out. It has to be okay for athiests, scientists and other rational people to point out the superstitious, irrational nature of religion. But somehow it's become taboo to point out what seems to me and Grandpa Schlomo to be glaringly obvious: religious stories are made up stories, the same way Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are made up. It's easy to laugh at the beliefs of scientologists (and I do laugh), but are their beliefs any more absurd than those of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons or tax attorneys? Jesus came back to life? There's a god up in heaven who is keeping a scoresheet he'll later use to decide if you belong in heaven or hell? Heaven? Hell? Come on!

But that's besides the point this week: even if you want to "believe," if you put faith above rationality and science, you have to be able to stand criticism of your beliefs. The Christian right seems to have declared a war on science and evolutionary theory; meanwhile it's not okay to point out the absurdity of a church on every block in my neighborhood with a sculpture of a guy staked to a cross? Err...

In the case of chocolate Jesus, I'm not even sure what they're pissed off about. I mean -- it's a chocolate Jesus! I could understand if they disagreed with the aestetics of sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro. I mean, why milk chocolate? Wouldn't a dark chocolate Jesus say more about Jesus' decision to die for our sins? What would white chocolate have said? Is Cavallaro, by sculpting a milk chocolate Jesus, trying to steal the big guy away from the white folks. Are there really white folks afraid that Jesus is getting away from them? Maybe milk chocolate -- made up of black looking chocolate and white milk -- is a perfect blend. Why can't we all get along? That's what Jesus would have wanted, right?

So I just don't get this. I consulted my neighbor, Peter Skillsberrysonburg, who happens to be an expert on everything, and he told me to get off his front stoop because I was blocking his view of Amanda Silkyskin who lives across the street. But when pressed, Peter did concede that he didn't understand what the fuss could possibly be about, and added, "I'd have sculpted Jesus out of JuJu Bes -- that would have taught them all a lesson!" He's right -- "JuJu" has the word "Jew" right in there. Twice!

One reason I don't understand what all the fuss is about is because I don't understand what all the fuss is about. It's a chocolate Jesus! I don't know what statement Cavallaro was trying to make in the first place, so how can anyone be upset by it. Was he saying: "Jesus is tasty and delicious!" Okay, maybe, but so what? Or maybe he was saying: "Jesus melts in your mouth, not in your hands!" Okay, I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but JC's body has been decaying a very long time, so who knows. Or maybe: "Jesus died for your sins, and that makes him sweet and loving. Like Chocolate!" Or maybe the sculptor, who actually is renown for sculpting things out of food, just didn't put much thought into it at all. Maybe he's another mindless twit artiste who just makes things to make them. If so, then he's as bad as all the religious folks who have thrown meaning and thought out the window in favor of beanstalks and other bedtime stories.

Cardinal Egan described the sculpture as a "a sickening display." Eating that much chocolate would certainly give the Cardinal a tummy ache, so we'd better keep him away from the Hershey theme park in Pennsylvania. Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever." Okay, I couldn't help laughing out loud over that one. One of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities? Ever? I think Donahue is either insane, or I really don't have a very clear idea of what Christian sensibilities are. Hitler wasn't worse? Chocolate Jesus is worse than Hitler? Or are they in the same category? What about all the Christians Stalin killed? Or heck, what about the Romans? Didn't they staple Jesus to a cross? But I guess these offenses don't assault Christian sensibilities, only Christians.

Apparently the gallery was overrun with angry phone calls and e-mails. Cavallaro received several death threats. I guess he really did assault Christian sensibilities, because a bunch of Christians were willing to break a commandment to prove it.

Look, I have nothing against people deluding themselves, as long as it doesn't infringe on my rights. But lately it seems as though it does more or more, and now religious zealots have infringed on Cavallaro's right to sculpt something stupid. I may not like his sculpture, but I absolutely believe he has a right to sculpt whatever he wants out of milk chocolate. So my sensibilities have been assaulted by this whole inane affair, and until yesterday I didn't think I had sensibilities, just a persistent ringing in my ear and an endless headache. If you can't take a little criticism of your beliefs (and chocolate Jesus wasn't even that!), then you're beliefs can't be worth much, can they? Doesn't all this cry baby crap remind you of a child who throws a hissy fit when someone tries to tell him there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny? Thank Jesus no one has had the audacity to make an Easter Bunny out of chocolate! Imagine the outrage!