Freezing the Kool Aid

Bad enough I’m always torn between explaining to my artist friends that being a faithful Catholic is not drinking the Kool-Aid and explaining to my faithful Catholic friends that it’s not worth sweating over “art” that challenges Catholic piety. Now artist Sebastian Errazuriz has to go and put the whole business on ice:

At a party this weekend celebrating New York Design Week, which begins today, the Chilean-born artist plans to hand out 100 “Christian Popsicles” made of “frozen holy wine transformed into the blood of Christ” and featuring a crucifix instead the tongue depressor that typically hosts the frozen treats, he said. 

An image of Jesus Christ positioned traditionally on the cross is visible once the ice pop is consumed. As for the frozen wine, Errazuriz said, he concealed it in a cooler and took it into a church, where it was “inadvertently blessed by the priest while turning wine into the blood of Christ during the Eucharist.”

Read the whole thing. But only if you promise not to punch me for linking to it.

The Kool Aid drinker in me feels the need to clarify that Errazuriz’s cooler of wine was not “inadvertently blessed” by the priest at the Mass into which he smuggled it. Still less has it been transformed into the Blood of Christ. Consecration is not some kind of magic juju that seeps into anything within the sound of the celebrant’s voice, or those bottles of Night Train in the coat pockets of homeless guys who sleep in the back pews of downtown churches all over America would be providing communion of a deeper kind than it does. Your wine’s just wine, dude–or winesicle, anyway.

The part of me (well, it’s all of me, actually) that isn’t Bill “Make-Fun-of-Catholics-and-I’ll-Go-All-Chuck-Norris-on-Your-Impious-Posterior” Donohue admits to a certain fondness for the crucifix popsicle sticks. They’re no tackier than those Jesus on velvet paintings they sell at LA gas stations, or New TestaMints, for that matter. In fact, rather than “signifying the relationship between fanaticism and historic religious violence,” as the artist intends–what a buzzkill!–the Jesus Popsicles might just be a refreshing way to remind an unlikely audience of NY Design Week partygoers just how cool religion can be.

Or maybe I just think that because it’s 89 degrees (in May!) in Dayton, and a popsicle sounds really good right now. Lord, help me.

  • Max Lindenman

    I share you're ambivalence, Joanne. Those popsicles are blasphemous, insulting, and adorable.

  • Ruth Ann Pilney

    I read the whole thing, and I liked this, "…it's everyone's responsibility to make sure no one will ever force their beliefs on to others…." I would respond to Errazuriz's comment by saying, "Yes, but it is also everyone's responsibility to make sure no one is prevented from expressing their faith and even evangelizing so others have the data to decide freely what they will believe.I agree with you about not getting too disturbed about others' viewpoints, if I'm understanding you correctly.

  • Steve

    Joanne, thanks for writing what you have — that is, both debunking the idea that this artist has employed actual consecrated wine (the Blood of Christ) and for keeping things in perspective. I'm half-horrified by this artist's project, but I appreciate so very much your not going all Bill Donohue on this! I'd say you've struck just the right note.

  • Elmtree

    Of course it's not truly consecrated, as you say. And given the 'artist' thought it was worth using the Blood of Christ, it indicates a faith in the real presence many Catholics don't have (even if the artist doesn't realize it- this very act indicates a belief). That's not all bad! Or even a little bad, imo (it would be very different if the person had, say, stolen the precious blood- though I'd say that would be a little difficult to do).

  • Fran

    Of all the posts that I have read on this topic, from mockery to hand-wringing of the highest degree, yours is hands down the best. Thanks for this. And it is kind of popsicle weather, isn't it?

  • Anonymous

    So I guess people would also not have a problem with the image of Moses or Mohamed as dessert? I'm so tired of people mocking Christianity and even more tired of people who consider themselves Christian and find "no problem" with this.

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    I understand your chagrin. It is tacky and tasteless. But the analogy to depictions of Moses or Muhammad does not hold up. Both Judaism and Islam prohibit images of the divine and, by extension, of humans made in God's image. Any depiction of Moses or Muhammad, even the most respectful, would be problematic. Christianity, on the other hand, came to a different path after the Iconoclasm crisis: because Christ Himself is an image of the divine, as each of us can be, such images are welcomed, not prohibited. Yes, this one is silly, but to condemn it as blasphemous and waste anger on it is to give it power it does not possess, turning an icon into a "graven image." That's idolatrous.

  • Anonymous

    Jesus Christ is NOT an image of the Divine. Jesus Christ is both True God and True Man. He is both human and Divine. How can you possibly say that any depiction of Moses or Muhammad would be problematic but an image of God on a Popsicle stick is not and is welcomed? Your understanding of Christianity is seriously flawed. I don't consider my comment a waste of my anger. What makes me angry are ridiculous comments made by people who excuse this sort of thing and say it is not blasphemy!

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    I won't argue with you, but my understanding of Christianity is just fine. Cf. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:15, plus all the fathers of the Church (particularly St John of Damascus) who settled this question after the Iconoclasm Controversy. Christianity does not forbid images of God, even on popsicle sticks; Judaism and Islam do (and extend that prohibition to the prophets in some traditions, and to all humans in others), even carved of the finest marble or painted by the greatest painter. That's the distinction I'm making. If you believe God is demeaned by this kind of silliness, your concept of God is smaller than mine.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Joanne…Methinks you mean Colossians 1:15: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." The footnote for that passage is interesting, too: "Whereas the man and the woman were originally created in the image and likeness of God (see also Gn 1:26), Christ as image (2 Cor 4:4) of the invisible God (Jn 1:18) now shares this new nature in baptism with those redeemed (cf. Col 3:10–11)."Deacon Greg