Martin LeFevre: “Chocolate Jesus”
The planned Easter Week exhibition of a full-size, anatomically correct sculpture of Jesus on an invisible cross, made from 200 pounds of chocolate, was cancelled at the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan. Called, with ostensible seriousness, “My Sweet Lord” by its creator, artist Cosimo Cavallaro (and “Chocolate Jesus” by outraged Catholics and Christians), it gives new meaning to the term “the body of Christ.”
It’s hard not to see everyone in this farce as missing the mark by a mile. New York Cardinal Edward Egan called it “a sickening display,” a charge that makes one wonder how much chocolate he eats. Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."
Yes, we must be very concerned about “Christian sensibilities” and “Muslim sensibilities” these days. Even though Christians cheered wildly when Iraqis were slaughtered at a ratio of 1000 to 1. (And that was in the first Gulf War!) Even though fanatical Muslims cheered wildly when 3000 people were crushed to death beneath the steel and stone of the collapsing World Trade Towers.
As for as Catholics, they had no trouble swallowing the disclosures of systemic pedophilia by their priests. But then, such ‘sins are forgiven,’ while offending religious sensibilities is unforgivable.
Despite the protestations of Cavallaro, who said he was trying to “get closer to his religion” (he’s a Catholic), his “chocolate Jesus” is clearly a parody of the Eucharist, the central ritual of Catholicism. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, a doctrine that holds that the bread and wine of Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ upon consecration.
Lost in all this nonsense during Easter Week is any insight and relevance Jesus’ mission might have for our tortured, sorrow-filled world. Was Jesus’ mission to ignite and manifest a revolution in the human heart? I feel so. And he clearly failed—or rather, the people of his time failed.
Shorn of Christian claptrap, which has no more meaning than a “chocolate Jesus,” another perspective altogether can yield insight into Jesus and his mission. In Eastern terminology, was Jesus illumined?
One may ask, why bother with the historical essence of Jesus at all, since whatever truth he embodied has been so covered over with doctrine, belief, and tradition as to be all but impossible to directly discern?
For one thing, Jesus is the touchstone of the tradition in which we are immersed in the West. For another, ‘enlightenment’ is on nearly everyone’s lips, as evidenced, to a similar depth, with many TV commercials lately.
If religion is to have any meaning in this scientific age, it must be detached from supernatural mumbo-jumbo. Just as for science to flower, it had to be detached from superstition and magic.
As I understand the meaning of illumination, it entails irrevocably leaving the stream of human content-consciousness. Of course, most Christians believe Jesus was God. Therefore, despite the ongoing intellectual contortions around the question of ‘man and/or God,’ which lie at the root of Christianity, they mean Jesus never was truly a man.
That is absurd of course, but so is George Bush’s base in this ‘Christian nation.’ Parallel confusions and perversions of Islam have given rise to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. (And yes, there is indeed a ‘moral equivalency’ between them.)
My contemplative practice leads me to feel certain that Jesus felt his mission was succeeding when he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, but that things quickly went very wrong. Sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of his arrest attests to Jesus’ humanness, his bodhisattva nature, and the shock and stress he must have felt at the failure of his mission.
As strange as it sounds, I don’t feel Jesus was illumined. But rather than diminish him, this understanding amplifies his greatness.
A bodhisattva is one who withholds his or her illumination, in this and perhaps other lifetimes, for the sake of humanity, waiting until the right moment, when enough human beings are truly transforming to ignite a revolution in human consciousness. If so, Jesus was the ultimate bodhisattva.
If there is any meaning to the “Second Coming,” this may be it. After all, if Jesus’ mission succeeded, why would there be a need for a “Second Coming?”
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic
religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing
in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now
New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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