Wednesday, April 04, 2007

St. Augustine and Chocolate Jesus

While reading Brad Kallenberg's Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age, I was reminded that St. Augustine converted and was baptized into Christianity at the age of 33. I am 33. When I turned 30 a friend reminded me that Jesus began his public ministry around this age, which emboldened and empowered me in my quest towards ordained ministry (read LONG quest). After my 30th year passed and I was still in seminary, I became a little down on the fact that my own public ministry had not received any jump start in my thirtieth year. When I turned 33, the same friend reminded me that Jesus' public ministry ended around the time he was 33. After being reminded of St. Augustine's entire story this past week, his wild youth, his eventual conversion to Christianity, his profound ministry later in his life, I am encouraged and enlivened yet again. I have now set my goal beyond simply ordination and am now focused on becoming the Bishop of Hippo.

A lot of friends have been blogging about the much-publicized life-size, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus by Cosimo Cavallaro entitled Sweet Jesus that is to be unveiled soon in NY and the public uproar and outrage by some in the Catholic and evangelical Christian community. I don't see what the uproar is all about. The commercial iconization of the image of Jesus has been going on for years, with Christ being emulated as an action figure, pencil topper, and bobble-head recently. I find the chocolate Jesus profoundly less insulting than Piss Christ,the controversial photograph by American photographer Arnes Sorrano, which depicts a small plastic crucifix supporting the body of Jesus Christ submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. I certainly do not find it as offensive as Catholic League head Bill Donohue who called it "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever". Really? I can think of far greater things that are an assault on our Christian sensibilities like, say, evangelical Christian leaders selling the idea during the last two presidential elections that all true Christians should vote Republican or continually being told by that same camp that the only two religious issues in politics today are gay marriage and abortion. Yes, it is anatomically correct and Jesus is represented as nude but Jesus was human at one time and, we are told by those who have done research on the crucifixion, was most likely naked while on the cross. I myself do not find it offensive to know that a sculptor is using his God-given talents to present a representation of Jesus that may inspire others to take a second look not just at the iconic image of Jesus but the person of Jesus Christ.

I think the notion of a six-foot tall anatomically correct chocolate Jesus is easier for postmoderns to stomach (no pun intended) b/c of the deconstructionist theories that are at the heart of everything we do. To better understand things, we deconstruct them, take them out of their context and look at them with new eyes to destroy our pre-conceived notions and clarify our true beliefs or ideas. I find the release of the horror/shocker flick The Reaping that uses the plagues of the OT as its storyline during Holy Week more offensive than the chocolate Jesus. But that's just me.

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