Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Portugal: Christ and *Playboy* Magazine (Jon Kofas, Greece)

Posted on July 9th, 2010 
In the 20th century of mass wars and revolutions, mass anxiety and hysteria that drives people to pop pills for everything including shyness, in the century of triumphant materialism when the value of people is lower than that of commodities, some artists, sculptors, and novelists justifiably depict revered religious figures like Christ as a whore-tempted atheist. There is a fundamental difference, however, between genuine artistic expression intended to provoke aesthetic and reflective response, and Playboy depicting Christ with naked women on its cover for profit. Playboy represents the commercialization of people and uses the “artistic” argument as a thin veil to justify its exploitation. The same picture that appears on the cover of Playboy would have been very appropriate if it was a painting by an artist creatively representing a dissenting viewpoint. Playboy’s only goal is profit for the duration, whereas the goal of the artist is creative expression that could lead to possible edification of the interested audience. Curbing free speech by not issuing the Playboy edition with Jesus and the naked models in a predominantly Catholic country makes business and political sense. The same Playboy issue, however, could become a collector’s edition among an urban US/West European audience skeptical about religion and disgusted by its commercialization. The same issue could also be used by anti-Christian groups that feel exploited by the West, and justfiably so in my view. If Western media periodically promote anti-Muhammad material in the name of “free speech,” the same standard must apply to Jesus, if for no other reason so we can claim ownership of “pluralism and free speech ideals.” Anti-clerical humor of course is centuries old, often by people within the same faith, often clerics of the faith. The artistic purpose of such material as distinguished from the political is also centuries old and only natural that it exists. We have become used to the Western establishment–political parties, businesses, media–promoting its own God while demonizing the other’s, and that too is a form of warfare as old as civilization. The Last Temptation of Christ may be creative expression, or part of an anti-Christian, anti-Western propaganda machine. And that too is part of the nature of warfare.

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