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Hi and thanks for landing here. It might seem a bit backward, but I decided to start blogging only because I've been enjoying Twitter so much. While I love the 140 character limit of tweets, I realised that a blog would give me a place where I could have the luxury of saying a bit more. I've also set up here because I have a blogging project in mind... but more on that later.
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Category: JC
Icon of Christ the man of sorrows
Holy Saturday

Posted on 30 March 2013, 21:46

Holy Saturday is the forgotten middle day of Easter. Where Good Friday and Easter Sunday are full of action (and church services), Saturday is simply the day when Jesus lay dead in the tomb. It is the eye of the hurricane of Easter.

I was powerfully drawn to this 12th century Greek icon for Holy Saturday (above) when I first saw it in the 1980s. Greek icons normally show Jesus as a powerful, commanding figure. Even icons of the crucifixion are entitled, ‘The King of Glory’. But here we see Jesus broken in the ultimate weakness of death.

The image puts us in the tomb with Jesus. And there we see suffering. This dead face is set in a frown. There are dark shadows under the eyes – the shadow under the left eye is like a bruise. The shoulders are hunched and tense, while the arms are limp and useless. The body of Jesus looks like a media image of a torture victim.

But we also see vulnerability here. Jesus has the mouth of a sleeping child, with the lower lip sucked under the top lip, for comfort. The head is bent as if in sleep. We see the openness of Jesus to suffering and death. We see God made poor, weak and helpless. I don’t think there is any other image which shows this with such depth of emotion and insight.

The icon shows us the beauty of Christ in his obedience to the will of God, at vast cost to himself, and also in his unconditional love for us. Because it is for us, for our sake, that he is here like this. And this creates longing. The Orthodox liturgy for Holy Saturday, the day when this icon was carried through the streets, has a prayer which gives words to longing.

‘O faithful, come, let us behold our Life laid in a tomb to give life to those who dwell in tombs. Come, let us behold him in his sleep and cry out to him with the voice of the prophets: You are like a lion. Who shall arouse you, O King? Rise by your own power, O you who have given yourself up for us, O Lover of mankind.’

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The Godbaby poster

Posted on 05 September 2012, 4:05

I’m a member of the team behind ChurchAds.Net, which has been producing national advertising campaigns for Christmas and Easter in the UK for almost 20 years. We’ve been running our ‘Christmas starts with Christ’ campaign for the past three Christmases, and the 2012 poster, featuring Godbaby, was launched yesterday. In the week or two leading up Christmas Day, Godbaby will be up there on billboards and bus shelters and outside local churches.

The poster comes with a choice of straplines. For a no-nonsense take on the incarnation, there’s ‘He cries. He wees. He saves the world.’ But for the faint of heart, which will probably include some churches, there’s the alternative version: ‘The gift that loves you back’. See both versions here.

I admire the poster for doing two things. First for talking in the language of today. During the autumn, advertising on buses, billboards and TV screens will be full of toys and products promising to make Christmas better. This poster will raise the same expectation, but it points to the Bethlehem baby as the one thing that can save us. And it undercuts commercial Christmas by saying in effect, ‘It’s not products you need, but Godbaby’.

Second, I appreciate its strong take on the God who becomes one of us to the point of bodily functions. For me, ‘He cries. He wees’ is a brilliant and unexpected connection between the world of dolls, where the hair ‘really grows’, and the world of the Christian faith, where God really becomes a living, breathing, crying, sneezing, weeing human being.

Some Christians will heartily dislike the boldness of that, which they’ll argue is irreverent or even blasphemous. In fact, hostile comment has already started to arrive, with someone emailing to call the poster ‘awful and repulsive’. That’s fair enough, as all Christians are entitled to have strong feelings about how their faith is publicly portrayed.

What do you think? Do you like the poster for its risk-taking attempt to communicate Jesus today? Do you disagree with it for portraying the Son of God as a plastic doll? Or what?

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Photo of Jamie and Francis in Made in Chelsea
When Jesus came to Chelsea

Posted on 22 May 2012, 6:54

Oh dear… there’s trouble in Chelsea. Or to be more precise, in Made in Chelsea, E4’s fake reality TV show. Jamie has been betrayed by his best mate Spencer, who knocked off his girl while they were both in Dubai. Jamie’s in a state of emotional collapse when his other mate, Francis, calls round with 12 cans of beer and an oven-ready sermon.

Here’s the dialogue (see it on the 4OD website, starting at 15:55)...


Francis: You know, look… when I’m, you know, trying to deal with betrayal, I think of what Jesus would do.

Jamie looks incredulous.

Francis: Jesus was kind of like a superhero, you know. He just… got shit done.

Jamie: OK.

Francis: Judas betrayed Jesus.

Jamie: Mm-mm.

Francis: What did Jesus do?

Jamie: Forgave him?

Francis: Exactly. What should you do?

Jamie: Forgive Spencer.

Francis: And Louise.

Jamie looks baffled.

Francis: You don’t want to forgive Louise?

Jamie: No!!!

Francis thinks for a bit.

Francis: I don’t know if Jesus would only forgive Spencer, though.


Thanks to Tali Garan (my daughter), who pointed me to this. ‘Best religious chat I’ve heard in a while,’ she said. Must run in the family, spotting religious comedy as good as this.

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Red Bull gives up Jesus for Lent

Posted on 17 March 2012, 3:38

‘Do you think Jesus had a sense of humour?’ The question was posted this afternoon on Twitter and was quickly followed by a chorus of right answers.

‘Yup He did!’
‘Yes, and does :-)’

Most Christians I know think Jesus could be funny, and that he did the 1st century versions of standup with gags such as the story of the exploding wineskin, or the chap happily walking round with a great big plank of wood in his face.

But when you think about it, being funny is only half the story. If someone’s asked, ‘Have you got a sense of humour?’ it usually means, ‘Can you take a joke?’ After all, it’s easy to be funny at the expense of someone else, but what happens when they do it back to you? Can you laugh at yourself?

So what about Jesus? Does he mind having his leg pulled? Is he OK if we crack jokes about him? Is he cool with ‘Jesus H Christ’? Something tells me that most Christians think not, and think not quite strongly, as they believe even mild jokes about Jesus are blasphemy. This unfortunately paints the Lord as someone who laughs at others, but gets monumentally angry when they return the compliment. It makes him look like a bully.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off the past day or two because a Red Bull advert being screened on South African TV was pulled when Christians (with Muslim backup) said it was deeply offensive. The ad features an amusing – to me, at least – cartoon where Jesus walks on water and the disciples question whether he’s been drinking Red Bull, as (in the product’s oft-used slogan) ‘Red Bull gives you wiiings’.

Jesus denies drinking Red Bull, and when one disciple asks if this is another of his miracles, he says, ‘It’s no miracle, you just have to know where the stepping stones are.’ He then almost slips off a stone and says ‘Jesus’ under his breath.

Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban, issued a statement immediately after the ad was aired saying how ‘disappointed’ he was with Red Bull whom he chided for their ‘satirical manner’ and for ‘overstepping a mark’. He suggested that Catholics should fast from consuming the drink until Easter and added that Red Bull’s advertising and PR people ought to get some ‘sensitivity training’. My counter-suggestion is that the cardinal gets some therapy for sense of humour failure, especially focusing on the gift of humility which the Lord bestows when others laugh at you.

The advertising standards authority received over 499 complaints, at which point Red Bull withdrew the ad from broadcast.

In fairness to Red Bull, I think there’s something inherently funny about the walking on water miracle. The few times I’ve been to the Sea of Galilee, I’ve always seen people at the water’s edge larking about, pretending to walk on the waves and getting friends to snap them doing it.

It’s the flashiest of Jesus’ miracles, almost like a bit of divine showing off, and it comes close to Jesus indulging the second temptation, where the Devil tries to get him to stage this exact same miracle of defying gravity.

The story seems to attract humour like a magnet. Even the liberal rationalisations of it in weighty commentaries can’t help veering off into farce. One scholar suggested that Jesus walked on a hidden sandbank (which makes Red Bull’s cartoon look like the exposition of a viewpoint rather than outright satire), while another suggested he was just wading through the surf. In 2006, a professor of oceanography argued that Jesus walked on ice, which raises the question, why not throw in a pair of skates too?

Even before Jesus’ time, walking on water was spoken about as laughable. ‘He was rash enough to think that he could make ships sail on dry land and men walk over the sea,’ says a verse about an arrogant king in the Second Book of Maccabees.

My biggest problem with Christians who get uncontrollably ‘offended’ by mildly amusing cartoons such as Red Bull’s is not just that it makes Jesus look like a bully, but it undermines his humanity. I think I can just about make the case that refusing to countenance jokes about Jesus belongs to an ancient heresy called docetism.

In that heresy, the belief that Jesus was God was held so strongly that the belief in his humanity withered. The average docetist would say that Jesus only appeared to be human, and that he never actually ate, drank, slept, suffered, died… or had a physical life at all. It’s a very damaging belief, because if Jesus was only God, and was never truly human as we are human, how can he be ‘God with us’ and give us the help we need? It destroys the Christian story.

If Jesus was a real, living and breathing human being, then comedy given and received was part of his experience. And since Christians believe he remains human after his resurrection, then comedy, jokes and funny cartoons made at his expense are an expected part of the Jesus experience too. Most Christians (and probably 100% of cardinals) might not want to join in that comedy themselves, but they shouldn’t be surprised by it or nurture offence about it.

Edward Abbey, the American author and hellraiser, once said, ‘Jesus don’t walk on water no more; his feet leak.’ Now that’s sterner stuff, comedically, than the Red Bull ad. But it’s still a joke I think Jesus would be able to take without reaching for a thunderbolt.

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Screen shot of the Roll on Christmas animation
Roll on Christmas

Posted on 24 September 2011, 4:26

Some Ship of Fools news… Steve Goddard and I have been working with the UK’s Bible Society over the past year to create a Facebook app in time for Christmas. Roll on Christmas is a two-minute movie in which you cast your Facebook friends in a nativity play, with their faces appearing on animated characters made from toilet rolls.

I don’t want to post any plot spoilers, but suffice it to say that the traditional nativity story quickly goes down the toilet, with the enthusiastic help of bungling angels, a dastardly King Herod and some inappropriate gifts.

We’re working with interactive agency Complete Control of Bath for design and animation magic, and Brandmovers of London for the social media wizardry, and the whole thing has been made possible by a generous grant from Jerusalem Productions, who funded The Ark back in 2003. It’s our biggest project since then and we’re hoping it’ll create a similar splash.

Our launch is set for the end of October.

I’ll post more on this shortly, but for now, if you want to be among the first to support Roll on Christmas, do Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more about the project, see this Ship of Fools feature.

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photo of the walmart receipt with a face on it
Jesus shops at Walmart

Posted on 26 July 2011, 8:07

A South Carolina couple, Jacob and Gentry, went shopping in Walmart for pictures a couple of weeks ago. They found a picture which made headlines around the world, but it wasn’t one of the ones they bought in the store. Because a few days later, as Jacob was walking out of his kitchen, the Walmart receipt, lying on the floor, caught his eye. It had strange, dark markings on it.

‘It was like it was looking at me,’ he said. ‘The more I looked at it, the more it looked like Jesus.’

Stories of Jesus appearing on household objects are two a penny on the Net. It’s a rare month when Our Lord isn’t turning up on a tortilla or a cow’s udder somewhere. Such reports trigger a torrent of comic tweets, as well as punning headlines in newspapers. One appearance of Jesus in a British steak and kidney pie produced an inspired headline in The Sun newspaper: ‘Jesus Crust!’

Curiously, spontaneous images of Christ have a long history. One early legend, dating back to the 6th century or maybe earlier, tells of how Jesus turned down an invitation to pay a visit to the King of Syria. He RSVP-ed by sending the king a cloth he had used to wipe his face. When the king opened it, the face of Jesus was printed on the fabric.

Art historians say legends such as this were developed to provide much needed theological support for the explosive growth in popular images of Jesus, Mary and the saints. Christians of the time were using mass produced holy images in highly superstitious ways, hanging them up in their homes and workshops as good luck charms. Those who championed this popular devotion promoted the legends in a brilliant (and ultimately successful) piece of PR, saying that images were ok because they originated in a miracle of Jesus himself.

With all due respect to Jacob and Gentry, Christians who get excited about God performing a conjuring trick with a Walmart receipt are also perilously close to crossing the line between miracle and magic.

One of the questions always raised by stories such as this is why a stain looking like a man with a beard should always be identified in the media as Jesus? People posting comments on blogs and Twitter over the past week said they saw Charles Manson, Josef Stalin or Rasputin, rather than Jesus. ‘Even a blind person can see that this is Osama Bin Laden,’ said a commenter called gotjapanka on YouTube.

But Christianity has form in this area. Stories of plaster saints which weep and bleed – and even wink or lactate – are still quite common, and although they can also occur in Hinduism, for example, it is the Catholic stories which are strong in Western folk memory.

Even though Christians brought up on Monty Python are able to laugh at reports of Jesus and Mary appearing on a pizza near you, I think many believers are slightly beguiled by the stories almost to the point of wishing they were true. There are good reasons for this.

Firstly, these visitations are invariably tacky. I’m thinking of the toasted cheese sandwich which looked vaguely like the Virgin Mary and which ended up being bought by an online casino for $28,000. And also the Jesus-shaped shadow cast by a tree on a caravan park fence in Australia which caused the person who saw it to exclaim ‘Jesus Christ!’ – and not in a holy way.

These are tales of transcendence meeting trailer park. That is what makes them hugely entertaining, of course, but it also has a certain appeal to Christians, because holy things appearing in humble locations is what the faith of Jesus is all about.

Added to that, the images suggest God is breaking out of organised religion and into the grittiness of everyday life. One comment posted on Huffpost Comedy made a fair point when it said, ‘God appeared to Moses as a burning bush, as a pillar of fire to the Israelites, as an angel to Abraham etc… and we get a Walmart receipt?’

Well, yes… but isn’t that so New Testament? Jesus was born in a barn. So is it any surprise that he shops at Walmart?

If Jesus is going to appear anywhere today, then a pizza shop, supermarket or casino sound exactly right.

However, any Christian tempted to believe that God engages with us today via fuzzy images of a man with a beard should remember some of Jesus’ last words to the first disciples. He told them to go into all the world. It is surely through flesh and blood human beings, rather than stains on checkout receipts, that Jesus touches the earth now.

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Photo of the Christ statue being assembled above Lima
Battle of the Christs

Posted on 15 June 2011, 5:44

A new titanic Jesus statue seems to be going up every year. Last November saw a local Catholic priest realize his dream to put up the world’s tallest Christ in Swiebodzin, Poland, and this year it’s the turn of the President of Peru, who has fast-tracked a gargantuan Saviour for the city of Lima.

The statue, which will face the Pacific, is to be unveiled this month, and will ‘bless Peru and protect Lima,’ according to the President.

There’s some confusion, though, about whether this will be the tallest Jesus of them all. Media reports say the Lima statue will be 37m tall, but that appears to include a 15m pedastal, which reduces our Lord himself to a mere 22m.

Excluding their pedastals, here’s how the world’s other giant Jesi stack up…

Christ the King, Swiebodzin: 36m
Cristo de la Concordia, Cochabamba: 34.2m
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro: 30m
Christ Blessing, Manado: 30m

Hopefully more news soon on the thrilling question of who has the biggest Jesus of them all, a revelation which is possibly of more interest to male readers.

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The poster showing Jesus in a baby scan
Jesus in an ultrasound scan

Posted on 16 December 2010, 0:05

One of the groups I’m really pleased to be involved in is, which every year produces an advertising campaign for churches to opt into at Christmas. Our most famous campaign was Meek. Mild. As if, which featured an image of Jesus in the style of the photo of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda, which ran in Easter 1999.

This year’s campaign is now hitting the streets in the UK, with a new image of Jesus (above) that I’m sure hasn’t been seen before in 2,000 years of image-making. I talked to Chas Bayfield, one of the creatives behind the ad, who’s previously created ads for Tango, Birdseye and Pot Noodle – see his knockout Blackcurrant Tango ad, which won a D&AD silver award.

Simon: How did you come up with the idea?

Chas: We needed a new way of telling the Christmas story, something that was more 21st century than 19th. Baby scans are a contemporary way of telling others about the good news of an impending birth. So why not use a baby scan of the Christ child to announce the impending celebration of his birth?

No one’s tried to depict Jesus in the womb before… why did you go for this image, and what do you think it says about Jesus and Christmas?

We’ve seen Christ the infant, Christ the man, Christ crucified – but this is a new image, a pre-Christ. It says that the divine became human. It reminds people that we are celebrating the birth of a new world order where peace, justice, equality and love arrived on the world agenda.

How have people responded to the ads so far?

Generally the poster has been welcomed. We’ve had a huge uptake from the churches and there has been lots of positive press coverage. However, some of the press are concerned that we are tampering with the sacred and that if we modernise the message too much we make the original unrecognisable. Vanessa Feltz described it as ‘Benetton-esque’ in that it was all a bit too intimate and bodily. It seems that some people are happy to watch the gorefest of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, yet they find the physical birth of Jesus too confronting to contemplate.

Thinking about this image and the Meek. Mild. As if image, what’s your purpose in showing Jesus in such non-traditional ways?

The human Jesus was an historical figure and there’s a danger that we use traditional iconography to imprison him in the past. The risen Christ however is contemporary. That’s why the rennaissance painters portrayed Christ and his followers in the fashions of the day and why the 19th century Christ looked more Victorian. The images we have used will date over time, but the plan is to constantly remind people that Christ and his message are relevant whatever time you are living in.

Ideally, what do you hope the ad achieves?

It is already achieving it – we are getting people talking about Jesus at Christmas. Job done. Box ticked. The bigger picture is that the unchurched see Jesus and the Christian message as something that might be relevant to them and that the churches realise there is an alternative way to winning souls than bashing them over the head with Bibles.

Note: To support the campaign and increase the number of posters which appear, go here on the website.

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Inside page from Jesus on ThyFace
Lazarus hath changed his status to risen

Posted on 10 November 2010, 14:41

I’ve reviewed new comedy book Jesus on ThyFace here, and my interview with the UK authors, Denise Haskew and Steve Parker is on Ship of Fools. In the interests of keeping it short there, I cut part of the interview, so here’s the authors’ account on how they wrote the book…

Steve Parker: I’d like to say we were keen to take a satirical look at the Bible, but the idea came from the other direction. I came up with an idea for a whodunnit/thriller based entirely on the social networking pages of the principle characters, and I asked Denise what she thought. She said it was probably the worst idea she’d heard in a long time.

Denise Haskew: There was the germ of an idea there, though, and I suggested retelling a classic, familiar tale using the characters’ social networking pages – something like Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace or Wuthering Heights. I thought that might work. This was last Christmas, and we were on our way to a Christmas party in London. On the way, we sat on the train chucking out suggestions. It was clear that for a book like this to work, we needed something that was familiar to as large a number of people as possible. “What’s the best selling book of all time?” we mused. Then, just like a scene from the movies, the idea hit us both at exactly the same time: ‘The Bible!’

Steve Parker: I remember Denise saying, ‘Lazarus hath changed his status to risen’, then she reached into her bag and pulled out a pen and pad. We were pretty poor company at the party – we just sat in a corner giggling and writing down gags.

Denise Haskew: When energy flagged, we turned to alcohol. I remember one particularly thorny problem working out how to best tell the story of John the Baptist’s beheading. I was looking forward to getting to this, as I thought Salome would be such a great character. As the Paris Hilton of her day, she was in many ways the ideal subject. But when we got to that bit, we couldn’t get the story to work. So we went down the pub and had a couple of pints of Winter Warmer, and then hit on the solution after just one pint: the story was much better told from Herod Antipas’s point of view. Herodias and Salome were plotters, whereas the luckless, conceited Herod was taken for a ride. Obvious, but it needed beer to bring it into focus.

Read the rest of the interview on Ship of Fools.

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Cover of Jesus on Thyface book
Jesus on ThyFace

Posted on 10 November 2010, 6:08

Jesus Christ joins ThyFace.
Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary are now friends.
Jesus Christ rejected a friend request from Jesus H Christ.

So beginneth this new book, Jesus on Thyface, published last month, in which Jesus and his mum, joined by the regular cast of the New Testament (including well known Bible character Derek the Leper) get into social media. Satan’s ThyFace wall is also included, and it’s heartening to see the update…

Satan and Philip Pullman are now friends.

There are a number of ways this book could have gone. An earnest Campus Crusade author could have written the WWJD Teen Guide to Facebook – come to think of it, that’s probably already in print, complete with a free chastity ring with every copy. Or there could have been a badly produced gift book with leaden humour and available at every Tesco checkout.

Instead, Jesus on ThyFace is a slim and handsome hardback, printed in full colour, with every right hand page in familiar Facebook format. The writing is laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly accurate in its retelling of the four Gospels, and highly inventive in mining the comic potential of sacred story meets social networking. It’s not a book you’d want to give for Christmas to your evangelical aunt, unless you wanted to trigger an early meeting between her and the Lord, but for tweeting Christians of a liberal bent who aren’t offended by jokes about Jesus, this is close to perfection.

For more info check out the Jesus on ThyFace Facebook page, where the latest joyous news is that the book has just made it into the Book Depository 1000 top sellers, at number 666. And who says God has no sense of humour?

I’ve just done an email interview with the authors, which I’ll post here tomorrow.

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Comic strip of zombies attacking jerusalem
Zombie Jesus!

Posted on 26 October 2010, 15:01

Biblical scholars have always been a bit cagey about three bizarre verses in Matthew’s Gospel, which come just after Jesus has expired on the cross. The verses (Matthew 27:51-53) read…

The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

But where experts fear to tread, comic strip artist Rob Liefeld has rushed in with Zombie Jesus! – a new strip he’s just started serializing on his website. In the strip, zombie hordes attack Jerusalem in the 48 hours after the crucifixion in search of the corpse of Christ. They’re led by the zombie of Judas, fresh after hanging himself, and opposed by Lazarus the Immortal.

All of which puts an interpretation on Matthew’s verses more colourful and exciting than any I ever heard in Bible college.

Liefeld, whose work has appeared in Marvel comics, is no stranger to mixing religion with the pumped-up heroes of comic strip. He collaborated with Phil Hotsenpiller, the teaching pastor of the Friends Church in Yorba Linda (a megachurch in southern California) to produce Armageddon Now: World War III, a graphic novel.

Hotsenpiller is a conference speaker on end-times prophecy, and the novel, which he wrote, is full of the phobias, prejudices and superstitions of modern-day eschatologists, not to mention generous helpings of violence. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to learn that he’s also written the script for Liefeld’s Zombie Jesus! It’s such a tiny step from the fantasy theology of the rapture and the great tribulation to zombies getting out of their graves.

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Picture of religion is garbage poster
Religion is garbage

Posted on 26 August 2010, 22:50

A flyposting campaign is hitting the streets of Auckland in New Zealand this week with bad taste posters attacking Jesus, Muhammad, the Pope and Pentecostal ‘bishop’ Brian Tamaki. Under the headline ‘Religion is garbage’, the most incendiary poster shows a cartoon of Muhammad wearing a vest packed with explosives plus an alarm clock, with the slogan, ‘Tick-tock Muhammad’.

The campaign is a collaboration between Muckmouth, a New Zealand skateboard magazine, and Eshe, a subversive clothing company inspired by 90s skate culture. Eshe’s website is offering all four poster designs as t-shirts for $49.50 each, although none are available to buy yet.

A post from yesterday on the Eshe blog says, ‘This started out as a poster project (which are going up now!), but due to demand we are going to release these designs on T-Shirt and our first skateboard line. Get on to it and send us your hate mail!’ That’s an invitation which will very likely be amply accepted.

The hackneyed lampoons of religion (surely they could have come up with jokes that haven’t been done a million times before?) are matched by derivative graphics taken from the 1980s Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, which themselves were a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

No religious people seem to have made any comments I can find yet on the Net. Eshe say on their homepage: ‘The only slaughtering we endorse, is the slaughtering of the metaphorical sacred cows.’

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picture showing the cover of playboys portuguese edition
When low-grade offence offends

Posted on 14 July 2010, 4:19

The past week has been a pretty good time for images intended to shock religious people – and religious people have been performing their expected role faithfully.

The publishers of the Portuguese edition of Playboy put Jesus on this month’s cover (above, with black strip to protect the identity of the female model, ha ha), and were sacked by Playboy USA for their trouble. Presumably, Hugh Hefner is worried that the image will damage sales of the venerable porn mag among fundamentalists, which must be considerable.

And in Moscow, the curators of Forbidden Art, an exhibition of satirical art pieces which other galleries refused, were fined 350,000 roubles (that’s £7,500) after a two year trial supported by right-wing groups connected to the Russian Orthodox Church. The exhibition included a crucifixion with Lenin’s head replacing that of Jesus, an icon of the Mother and Child filled with caviar, and Jesus next to the golden arches of McDonalds with the slogan, ‘This is my body’.

Not great art, but also not great offence. And anyway, when did Christians start thinking they had the right to stop people offending them, or for ‘blasphemy’ to be treated as a criminal offence, instead of using events like this as a trigger to discussion about faith? Probably as far back as AD 313, when Constantine converted and the Roman Empire became ‘Christian’.

It’s alarming to see the Russian Orthodox Church with real power in its hands again, and it’s a reminder of how ugly church can be. To see some of the Forbidden Art exhibits online, visit the Russia! blog.

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picture showing the cliff statuette with bobblehead jesus
Cliff and Jesus

Posted on 09 July 2010, 14:34

Did I mention before that I have a quite large collection of kitsch figures of Jesus, mostly in plastic? Dashboard piety has long been a fascination for me, as the whole idea of rendering Jesus in throwaway plastic seems so gloriously inappropriate. Most of the Jesi I’ve collected were bought on eBay from the States, and include a couple of small Jesus and Mary dashboard statuettes with magnetic bases and rhinestone-studded haloes. Trash piety doesn’t come much better than that.

It’s slightly off the beaten track, but I’ve added a plaster bust of Sir Cliff Richard to the collection, which came my way via the writer Catherine von Ruhland. Catherine spotted the Young One languishing in a Littlehampton shop window, and in a moment of inspiration took a snap and posted it on Facebook. At my request, she rescued Sir Cliff from his junk shop oblivion (isn’t it amazing how art so often imitates life?) and entrusted him to me yesterday when we met in the National Gallery café.

He’s surprisingly chunky and looks more than a bit like Jacko. Here he is (above) alongside the tasteful Bobblehead Jesus.

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picture showing a piece of toast which looks like the profile of a face... sort of
Breakfast revelation

Posted on 24 May 2010, 13:18

It’s what was left over from breakfast this morning. I know these things are meant to be Jesus, but I think it’s a profile view of Elvis with a huge quiff. Either way, it’s now in the freezer waiting to be sold for a fortune on eBay.

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picture showing the book cover which appropriately enough has a picture of jesus superimposed on a piece of toast
Cheesus and other holy snacks

Posted on 21 May 2010, 2:29

Ever since Diane Duyser saw the face of the Virgin Mary in a cheese sandwich and made a cool 28,000 bucks selling it on eBay to a Florida casino, visions of Mary and Jesus in food and everyday objects have been in the news.

Look! It’s Jesus! documents dozens of ‘appearances’ of the holy duo on tortillas, handbags, lava lamps, clouds, tree stumps, and a burnt frying pan. They’ve mercifully omitted the image on a dog’s bottom which has been doing the rounds on the Net for a while. Some images in the book are quite impressive, in their weird and whacky way, while others are testaments to a wildly overactive imagination.

I bought it because I’ve been following the phenomenon for a few years, curious about how people respond so willingly to these eccentric appearances of the divine, and why they identify any vaguely bearded face as Jesus, rather than Frank Zappa. I wrote about several of the most interesting stories in a feature on the Rejesus website called Unexpected Faces.

Harry and Sandra Choron, the book’s authors, have done a supernaturally good job, though, not just in collecting the pictures, but also in tracking down the original stories and talking to the people behind them, many of whom now treasure their unlikely relics. ‘Smith has set up a shrine to the lava lamp in his home,’ is the conclusion of a typical story.

My favourite episode in the book is about David, who ordered grilled chicken and vegetables in an Italian restaurant in Syracuse, New York. The food arrived and there staring up at him from the surface of the chicken was the face of Our Lord. David told the waiter, ‘I think Jesus is on my chicken,’ which must have made a nice change from ‘There’s a fly in my soup’.

Look! It’s Jesus! is my perfect loo book.

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picture showing two of the sacred shoes, each with a trad image of jesus and mary on the toe area
Sacred sneakers

Posted on 20 May 2010, 13:49

Summer’s coming, so don’t you think now’s a great time to get some deck shoes with Jesus and Mary printed on them? Me neither. Thanks anyway to Angel Wrestler for emailing to point out Zazzle’s new product line, Crucifix Shoes, sporting Christian images on canvas sneakers. The full range includes Madonnas, stained glass, crowns of thorns and angels. We’re going to be featuring this on Ship of Fools’ Gadgets for God pages soon, so this is just a sneak (ha ha) preview.

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