‘Piss Christ’ returns to New York along with ‘Piss Moses’
posted at 11:01 am on September 27, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
Midtown Manhattan has been the scene of much religious reflection and blasphemy of late. One act of solemn reflection took place at the 140-year-old Central Synagogue on 55th Street, where Jews assembled on Wednesday to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. While they prayed, a few blocks away a man who has called the state of Israel a “malignant cancer” prayed as well—for their and its destruction. In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly (video here), outgoing Iranian “President” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked God to bring “a new order” that “will do away with … everything that distances us.” If the intent wasn’t clear enough, he later explained in an interview with the Associated Press that he expects that Israel will soon become an “historical footnote.”
Today the blaspheming continues at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery on 57th Street, where the state-sponsored “artwork” Piss Christ goes on display for a month. The work, in case you missed the controversy that swirled around its debut in 1987, consists of a photograph of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine.
The week has been noteworthy not only for its anti-religious acts but for the conspicuous inaction on the part of those whose faiths were defiled. Jews chose not react to Ahmadinejad’s incendiary remarks by storming the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York or by burning the Islamic flag in the streets of Manhattan. Christians did not fire bomb the D.C. headquarters of the National Endowment for the Arts, the government agency that funded the creation of Piss Christ, or demand that its artist, Andres Serrano, be “cut up into little pieces” (the fate suggested by one Muslim protester for the maker of the anti-Islamic film).
One more act of religious reflection was a speech on Tuesday by President Obama, also at the U.N. In it he observed:
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims and Shiite pilgrims.
This effort at rubbing an all-purpose balm on the “hurt religious feelings” (to borrow a phrase from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo) of practitioners of all faiths fails on a number of fronts. James Taranto has a spot-on analysis of the problems inherent in this sweeping apples-and-oranges pronouncement for those interested in pursuing it further.
But the best way to see the folly of Obama’s outreach and its disconnect with reality is through a litmus test of sorts proposed by Mario Loyola at National Review Online:
Find an enterprising young artist willing to create a ‘Piss Mohammed’ version of Serrano’s work, and ask the museum to hang it right next to the Piss Christ. It could be part of a ‘Piss Religion’ exhibit. If the gallery declines (as it surely would), then perhaps one could gather together a small group of Manhattan atheists to march ‘piss portraits’ of Mohammed and his fellow deities/prophets right up 1st Avenue past the United Nations, in homage to the First Amendment.
Every last person who complains will have to explain why they said nothing during the 20-plus years that the revolting Piss Christ has been touring art galleries around the world. They will be forced either to treat Islam and Christianity the same (i.e., stop trashing the latter) or finally admit the cowardly truth, which is that their degree of respect for any given religion is proportional to its proponents’s [sic] propensity for violence.
The same test could be easily applied to putative remarks along the lines of Ahmadinejad’s screed that disparages Islam in like fashion and calls for wiping Mecca off the map.
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