Smoking Jesus and other blasphemies
Deja vu stalked last week’s uproar over print publication of cigarette-smoking Jesus of the Sacred Heart, drinking something out of a can. This time, it manifested in a Skyline Publications Meghalaya, India, cursive writing exercise book. Which was promptly taken out of service by the government of that 70% Catholic province.
The image made a previous appearance in June of 2008, reported IndiaTime , when it was printed on the cover of “Vachana Jyotis, a magazine published by [the Catholic] diocese of Neyyattinkara, in the southern state of Kerala.”
About a year earlier, in August of 2007, that or a similar image caused an uproar and temporary government shutdown of a newspaper in Kuala Lumpur. Agence France-Presse reported
KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian newspaper has apologized to Kuala Lumpur’s Roman Catholic archbishop after publishing a front page picture of Jesus Christ clutching a cigarette, the paper’s manager said Thursday
The Makkal Osai, a Tamil-language daily, printed the picture earlier in the week, provoking criticism from religious leaders and politicians in multicultural Malaysia.
S.M. Periasamy, general manager of the paper, said someone had downloaded the image from the internet to illustrate an article, and did not notice that Jesus appeared to be smoking.
“We are sorry for the mistake, but it was a very honest one,” he told Agence France-Presse, adding that the person responsible had been suspended.
Local media reported that the picture also showed Jesus holding a beer can in one hand, but Periasamy said it was in fact non-alcoholic.
Christians aren’t being singled out. Kurt Westergarrd still sees life-threatening backlash from his cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The Mexican Playboy had to apologize for its nearly nude Mary in 2008. Artist M.F. Husain was arrested in 2006 for his nude representations of Hindu gods and goddesses. There was much unhappiness in 2004 over Buddha Bikinis. In 2003, Denmark’s Kvickly supermarkets decided to ditch a line of sandals which had people walking on images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary by putting their images on the inside of slippers – after selling some 4,000 pairs but receiving some 200 complaints. A Catholic priest in Aarhus, Denmark, accused the store of blasphemy.
Such works, whether art or bad digital imaging hacks, cannot equal in their desultory impact the force of living blasphemies, written into the lives of those whose trust and bodies are defiled by clergy.
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