February 12, 2008

"A 'Virtuous vanilla' lip balm and a 'Get Tight with Christ' hand and body cream, featuring a picture of Christ flanked by two adoring women."

Products from a cosmetics line called Looking Good for Jesus, withdrawn in Singapore after Catholics complain. What is the nature of the complaint? I've seen plenty of fancy oil paintings in prestigious museums that pictured Christ flanked by two adoring women.

ADDED: In case you want to compare the image to classy artworks you've gazed upon, here:

TYPO FIXED: I did not mean to write "classic artworks."


Paddy O said...

It's a licensing thing.

Only the Church should be allowed to make money off of schlocky portrayals of Jesus.

Unknown said...

My favorite were the action Jesus figures and the Pope on a Rope soap that Urban Outfitters was selling. I bought the line and gave it to priests I know. Only one was pissed. The rest thoguht they were funny.

MadisonMan said...

Oh Paddy, you beat me to it. The Catholic Church wouldn't be complaining if they were getting a piece of the profits!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It would be helpful to see the picture that people are upset about.

The adoring women in historical paintings are adoring the spirituality of Jesus.

I presume that the adoring women in the ad are focusing elsewhere, more in the physical realm, in their adoration. This would be objectionable to Catholics to have Jesus depicted as an object of physical lust instead of a representation of spiritual salvation.

Kind of like when women are offended when the man isn't paying attention to her inner being. "My eyes are up here bozo"

Rich B said...

If Jesus won't work, they could always substitute Mohammed. That's sure to get people excited.

AllenS said...

Now I see you're talking about Jesus, God's kid. I originally thought it was about the Mexican with the tow truck.

KCFleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KCFleming said...

I'd be impressed with their speaking truth to power form of mockery if indeed it were Mohammed being protrayed.

Mocking Jesus carries virtually no penalty at all in the West, about as transgressive as using a urinal for art. That is, old and boring.

Ridiculing the weak (the current christian church) is just too easy. Try some Muslim mockery. That I would see as actually courageous.

Hoosier Daddy said...

If Jesus won't work, they could always substitute Mohammed. That's sure to get people excited.

Well in addition to bad taste that would be racist and culturally insensitive to the followers of the Religion of Peace.

Ron said...

Rest assured such products were NOT in use in Christopher Hitchens recent makeover in Vanity Fair!

It's the "loofah and fishes" body scrub kit that is to die for, dahlinks!

Bob said...

The pose on the Jesus pic you have up is based on the famous Warner Sallman painting.

George M. Spencer said...

Maybe this image belongs under the medical teaching post below, as the onlookers are most astonished, not adoring.

Ger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

I thought by classic you meant the kind of established Christian artwork, such as these (especially the "noli me tangere" scenes).

It seemed quite fitting and not a typo to me.

Classy means something different, and I see very little classy art in Christian circles these days. Kitschy yes, but not too much classy. Classy seems to be classic not contemporary.

TMink said...

Pogo, I am not sure I agree with you that we (Christians) are weak. We (well, those of us who understand the whole thing!) try to be patient, and kind, and slow to anger, and loving. And, we are not as big an influence on society as we once were, that is for certain!

I believe that the waning influence of CHristianity in our culture is our fault. When it was assumed that all American's were Christian we let that assumption be instead of challenging people who say that they are followers of Christ but acted NOTHING like it. The charges of hypocricy were accurate, and out fault. We did not police our own.

I think we will do better as a minority. The hangers on will hang somewhere else, and we will hopefully learn something from the consequences of our mistakes. The metaphor of pruning comes to mind for me.

Having said all that, I am offended by anyone making money in trivial ways by pimping my Savior. Church related or not, I would not want to be in their shoes as it is my belief that God is not amused. But pope on a rope and buddy Christ made me laugh and laugh hard.

Just my thoughts.


Joe M. said...

Pimping Jesus now. Wonderful. I wonder if God will call the customer service reps of this company and declare their products "beneath contempt."

As for the product itself, trashy.

Paddy O said...

I wonder if God will call the customer service reps of this company and declare their products "beneath contempt."

Acts 8:20-23:

Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness."

Ann Althouse said...

I meant classy artwork in prestigious museums.

ricpic said...

Looks like a Matthew McConaughey Jesus in that ad. Show us your abs, Jesus...and your hog. That second request was from Titus, Jesus. He can't help himself.

bill said...

Julia Sweeney, "God Said Ha!" Speaking of her mother:

...She's also doing a lot more volunteer work at St. Augustine, which is my parent's parish. She's part of this women's auxiliary group there. And several months she called me and said "Julia, you know the ladies auxiliary have been meeting and we have all agreed that...well, you know the Jesus that is up on the altar at St. Augustine? Well, he has such a sad look on his face and he's so depressing looking and he's just kinda hanging there and we all agreed we'd really like a new Jesus. Well we told this to Monsignor and Julie, Monsignor picked me to pick the new Jesus. Well he gave me a catalog where you order those from Europe and whatnot and I went through it and...let me tell you Julie, one Jesus was just sadder than the next. And then I got to the last page and I found my JESUS! Well, he has long, blonde, gorgeous curls and legs that just go on for days. He's very, very muscular and it's almost like he's bench pressing that cross up there! I showed him to the ladies and we all agreed that we wouldn't mind looking at him for an hour every Sunday! And so we've ordered him and Julie he just got in and he's up and I call him my sports connection Jesus!

former law student said...

These are made by the American company Blue Q. I have bought my sister some "Wash Away Your Sins" soap, either at Urban Outfitters or perhaps Anthropologie (all mall stores blur in my mind).

Blue Q also has a line of "Total Bitch" products.

The Jesus picture reminds me of ladies loving Krsna pics.

Superdad said...

George - I hope you already know this but your picture was of Thomas the doubting disciple and origin of the phrase "doubting Thomas" who said he would not believe in the resurrection until he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Christ appeared to him and said put your hand in my side and Thomas declared "My Lord and my God." And Jesus replied, "because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20: 24-31).

Chip Ahoy said...


*bites back of hand*

Smilin' Jack said...

...a picture of Christ flanked by two adoring women.

Reminds me of my favorite Jesus joke:

Q: Why did all the chicks dig Jesus?

A: [stand and spread arms wide] Because he was hung like THIS!!

George M. Spencer said...


Of course, the ad is in bad taste.

I trust the painting was well received hundreds of years ago. The guy who did the piece was ultimately thrown in jail for painting without a license.

It is a shocking image. I think if someone painted the scene today it would outrage a lot of people.

That was my point.

Ann Althouse said...

There is something phallic about the placement of that lip balm.

As for "God Said Ha!" ... I love that, and I think that passage actually crossed my mind when I was writing the post.

Anonymous said...

I'm a practicing Missouri Synod Lutheran (very much in the "practice makes perfect" sense) and my wife is Jewish. She bought me the "Wash Away Your Sins" soap some years back, and periodically buys me things like "You Know You Were Raised Lutheran If..." I think they're funny, and yes, sometimes in the Homeresque "It's funny because it's true!" sense.

Frankly, I don't see the point in getting offended because Jesus is depicted artistically as an attractive man. If I were going to be offended, it would more realistically be because someone might take the artistic statement literally, which would be ascriptural ("For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." — Isaiah 53:2, KJV) and potentially idolatrous ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me." — Exodus 20:3, KJV), or because He is typically depicted in a fashion that is culturally relevant, i.e. as an essentially caucasian figure in virtually all of western Christian art, as opposed to as the short, stocky middle-eastern Jew that He actually was. Having said that, I love the icons at St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, and my belief generally is that if depictions of Jesus matching the visual expectations of the artist and/or viewer help remind us that, as St. Paul wrote, Christ died and rose again "once and for all," then it's all to the good.

As for lust, it's like all other sins: not something to be sought out, but this side of eternity, unavoidable and, in the face of repentance, forgivable. A vastly tougher question is: when does a healthy attraction lapse into lust, and how can we avoid putting ourselves in such situations—if at all?

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.


As a Ghost, dead these 250 Years and more, I need not tell You that my Century was famously impious. So 'tis that Jesus on a Jar does not surprise me, for I have seen Worse in my Time.

A Smatt'ring of Knowledge of religious Art will acquaint even the most indolent Student with such Folly, Egoism, Greed & Impiety as to call to question the very Teachings that the Art is suppos'd to inculcate. Knowing that Images upon Walls, Statues & Stain'd Glass Windows were created from a suppos'd Holy Impulse, and then eras'd & smash'd for the same Reason, may help make a sneering Atheist of the unbiased Observer.

The Wisdom and Holiness of the Ten Commandments is manifest; God taught the Second Commandment to the Hebrews thus:—

    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing
    that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Many have been exasperated that the Christian Church should have deviated from this Rule.  Iconoclasts in the Time of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo the IIIrd, and more recently, Followers of Zwingli & Calvin, not to mention those eccentrick and peaceful Souls belonging to such Sects as the so-call'd Friends, or Quakers, have rent Christianity, some more violently than others, with Controversy about the Need to resort to Images & Statues to inspire the rightful Worship of God.

Failing the Second Commandment, the appearance of the Image of the Messiah upon a Bottle would not, I think, have surpris'd Moses.  That we have such a Commandment, and yet depict Jesus ador'd by Harlots on a Jar of Lip Pomade is, perhaps, the Reason the Emperor destroy'd the Icons and the Puritans whitewash'd the Frescoes.  If a Religion uses no Images, its Adherents may not debase Them.

That Religious Images may be debased in refined, yet pernicious Ways, is shewn by the Example of this Alterpiece.  You may see another Copy here. This Work was painted about the Year 1445 by a Fleming, one Rogier van der Weyden, a well-respect'd Artist of the Day.  It now resides near Berne in Switzerland; I recall seeing it on the Continent during my youthful Tour in the Year 1709.

The noble Art of painting in Oils, altho' newly invent'd, had reached, by the middle of the Fifteenth Century, a Pitch of perfection never seen before, or seldom equaled since.  The wise Observer will not be fool'd, however, by the polish'd Surface of this Work, for the Composition is very defective, and the Taste yet Gothick.  In the leftmost Panel, we see the Donor, an Italian Banker in the Costume of the Day, piously kneeling, and yet looking like every Banker you may have met.

The central Panel of Christ Crucified is, to the careful Critick, however, a most curious Performance.

The Figures of St. John and Christ have been met with before in other Crucifixions by the same Artist.  Mynheer van der Weyden seems to have had a Company of Models, including, perhaps ones for the Virgin Mary and other female Figures.  That to the Three familiar Marys is added another unknown Lady, piques the Curiosity of both the Bible-reading and Art-loving Conoisseur.  In the Centre, we see her reaching to comfort the Virgin Mary.  This young Woman, of no little Beauty, is wearing a well-fitting Dress of rich brown Velvet and Gold Brocade, with stockings of the same colour. A finely-wrought gold-buckl'd Sandal may be seen upon one of her well-shaped Feet.  The sumptousness of her Costume, and the Beauty & Italianate Cast of her Person leads Us to suspect that she is the Wife of the Banker, paint'd into the Action of the Picture.

Donors are often met with in Flemish religious Pictures of this Age; commonly they are a Potato-faced Burgher and his long-suff'ring Wife, looking for all the World like a M├Ždeval Mr. & Mrs. Clinton, kneeling discretely in some Corner.  That someone would have his pretty Wife paint'd, attired as if for a Ball, comforting the Virgin Mary, is astonishing to a later Age.  Perhaps 'twas not regarded as blasphemous to be seen to mingle with the Holy Family if you were well enough dress'd.

Mary Magdalene is another comely young Woman shewn in this Panel.  She has rais'd her arms in a Gesture of Grief, causing her Cloak to fall about her Hips, and stretching her fine Linen Shift tightly over her firm Breasts. Not visible in these miserable Copies is the Artist's Skill in depicting the Impressions of her well-form'd Nipples upon her Garment.  That the Banker's Gaze seems fix't, as well it might, upon her Nipples, and not upon Christ, should not surprise the Student of either Religion or Human Nature.

The Figure of Christ hovers over all this as if only to give Height and Dimension to the Composition, having little to do with the Action upon the Ground.  In the Churches of the Day, the Crucified Christ would have been chiefly visible to the Congregation, whilst the Priest, bent over the Secreto, could at once proclaim the Transubstantiation of Christ, and privily enjoy a View of erect Nipples and a well-turn'd Ankle.  That many a Priest & Monk should have stain'd themselves in Admiration of this Alter would, again, not surprise our Student.

Keeping in Mind that the Christ of the Cosmetick Jar is not the first, nor will it be the last, nor even the worst Impiety ever impos'd upon the Christian Religion, & begging your pardon for the Tardiness & Length of my Writing (which has reminded me of the Vexations of playing the Art Critick),

I remain, Madam,

Your most humble & obt. Servant

Sir Archy

Tibore said...

Sir Archy,

If you have heard negative things vis-a-vis the portrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ in the movie Dogma, fear not. It was far less blaspemous and far more Generation X slackly irreverent than anything else. The irony of the times is, in the case of my generation and the one immediately following, a literal "irony" of our times, manifested as a supposed uncaring outward appearance and general disdain for the immediate culture which in fact usually hides an oddly gentle affection for it. Thus is the case with Kevin Smith. The Christ pictured in that movie is far less a cause for alarm or anger, and far more a reason to snicker and say "Next joke please".

However, if you perchance happen upon the tepid works of Andres Serrano, please, to shield your own gentle soul, avoid with all alacrity the abomination known as "Piss Christ". While most of the controversy surrounding the supposed blasphemous nature of the work is much overwrought and ill thought (mine own opinion being that it takes more than a jar of wee to desecrate that symbol, much less insult my aesthetic sense), the actual art (i.e. presentation of elements to stimulate the aesthetic sense) is sadly lacking. One appreciative viewer of the work attempted to describe to me the skill and beauty of capturing the dominant color so well that I wonder if she was an imbiber of recreational pharmecuticks that oversaturates the senses. Mine own, unfortunately pithy response was: "I don't see it." In short, muted and dull tones speak less to skill and more to careless process, and leaves me wonder what even the most accomodating of art patrons see in the work.

However, should you happen upon the work known as the "Life of Brian" (regarding the minor Messiah "Brian", born in the next manger over from Jesus), I think you may appreciate the witty comedy and looney British humor infecting that film. I can never think about that film without affectionately recalling the one piece of dialogue:

Brian: You're ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
The Crowd: Sch!

... and laughing myself to unconsciousness.

Enjoy, sir.

Your most appreciative fan,

joated said...

It is a rare pleasure indeed to read Sir Archy's comments upon these post.

Such supurb prose and delightful history from an astute observer are to be treasured.

Ms. Althouse, I do hope you've been keeping track of all of Sir Archy's comments and the posts to which they are attached. It would be a disaster to lose them. And, perhaps if you should ever find the time, you might think about creating a series of posts linking to our most friendly ghost.

Sir Archy said...

To the Readers:—

Altho', as a Ghost, it seems to have pleas'd God to grant me an Infinitude of Time, the same cannot be said of the Gentleman whose Brain I now haunt.  The press of another's Time & Business thus prevents Me from thanking individually those among You who have so graciously favor'd me with your Compliments.  That I cannot forbear to offer to both You and to Professor Althouse my highest Gratitude need hardly be said.

I am most sensible of the Need to live up to the Expectations the Honour of your Approbation brings.  You may thus rest assur'd that I shall endeavour to entertain & perhaps enlighten the Publick with even greater Zeal than I have done heretofore; and that I shall do my Best to eschew Vulgarity, Cant & Tedium in Everything I may place before You.

Your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy