Bin Laden Jesus: Offended or Over it?

Blakeprizejesusosama Well, it seems the media attempt to stir up drama over the 2007 Blake Prize was a bit of a fizzer. When images were released depicting Mary in a burqa and Jesus morphing into Osama Bin Laden a collective yawn went out from Australia’s religious leaders.

The Muslim response

Ikebal Patel, President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said: “[Mary wearing a burqa is] no different to how our mothers and sisters are expected to be modest in their dressing” And on the Jesus images, where he was offended, it was for the sake of Jesus, not Osama, “You have a revered prophet of Islam being equated to somebody like Osama bin Laden.”

The Christian response

Robert Forsyth, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, wisely advised: “You need to limit the language of outrage to things that are really outrageous”

George Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, thought it was overly predictable, saying: “Unfortunately, some contemporary art is tedious and trivial. These couple of works demonstrate this … Regrettably, attempts to insult Jesus and Mary have become common in recent years, even predictable … Too often it seems that the only quality which makes something art is the adolescent desire to shock … If this is the best the Blake Prize can do, it has probably outlived its usefulness.”

I applaud the leaders of both faiths for refusing to rise to the bait. Now, if only we could encourage our Prime Minister John Howard to let religious leaders speak for religious communities eh?

See the “That’s Osama Art Controversy” for more.

5 thoughts on “Bin Laden Jesus: Offended or Over it?

  1. The artist herself said the piece was “not meant to compare Jesus with bin Laden, but was a commentary on the way the terror leader was treated in the media” and that “She was concerned bin Laden would be unintentionally glorified in years to come.” [1]
    The flaw with the artwork, though, is that its juxtaposition obviously invites comparison. And the reported statements or actions of the two persons have so few parallels that there’s none to be made. So it seems sensationalist in the absence of alternative readings.
    Luke Sullivan, maker of the Virgin Mary piece offered a rationale along these lines. “They (religions) are hegemonic in their nature. They can be all-encompassing and powerful.” [2]
    For him it seems bin Laden (and movements in Islam) may function as “the ghost of Christianity past”.
    I expect we’re now sufficiently disestablished that it seems obvious how un-Christian the establishment of Christianity in various forms of Government or Empire were. I think Harvey Cox (The Secular City) was right in seeing secularity as theologically warranted and partly theologically produced. But that’s not at all obvious to non-Christians, I think, and this contributes to the current state of apprehension. Christians with theocratic leadings are visible and taken to be simply acting out what others silently think.
    We ought to be responsibly involved in the process of democracy; it’s part of our stewardship. But we have to remember that between Jesus and Paul, the big lesson on Christianity and government was peaceful coexistence — “try not to get arrested,” basically.

    [1,2] For the artist quotes see:,22049,22330964-5001021,00.html


  2. Re George Pell.
    It is impossible to insult “jesus” or “mary”.
    Only real living, breathing, flesh and blood human beings (and the non-humans too)
    can be insulted.


  3. I like this thinking;
    “You need to limit the language of outrage to things that are really outrageous”
    It is easy for us to become outraged over art, and yet we are strangely unmoved by the plight of people in Darfur etc.
    Perhaps we need to think about what actually should cause us offense!!!


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