18 May 2009

God is Love -- Jesus Supports the Use of Condoms


I fully expect to offend people with the picture that leads off this post. I do not apologize for the message of this piece. Thanks to the Freethinker for illuminating this controversy for me here and here.

Sexually transmitted diseases of all types are slowly but surely decimating our collective future. The idea that abstinence is the answer has proven to be clearly not the case. The need here is to ensure that people are fully educated and therefore able to make informed decisions on their own. If abstinence happens to be that choice, then all well and good. However, if the choice is a different one, then at least those individuals will have at their disposal the knowledge that may just save their lives.

The art work is by Ben Heine, a Belgian, and was in direct response to the statements of the Pope and his fellow clergy members who seem to believe that it says somewhere in the Bible that condom use is strictly prohibited and that the use of condoms actually makes the HIV / AIDS tragedy in places like Africa even worse. The art work was posted on a site called DeviantArt. Unfortunately, DeviantArt in their infinite wisdom deemed the work too offensive or controversial or something because they removed it, and then ultimately banned Heine from the site.

I fully support the right of websites to determine their own content. However, a quick look around the DeviantArt site turns up quite a lot of art that would best be described as pornographic and perhaps even offensive to some, not to me though. So, why single out this piece of art for censorship? Come to think of it, I am not offended by Jesus wearing a condom or the idea that the Christian God is a God of Love and would be cool with a pro-condom message. This is not because it encourages promiscuity but to the contrary because it saves souls from agonizing and pointless deaths.

The right to freely express one's ideas is a core tenet of my philosophy on life. I have not and do not advocate that there are no limits to free speech, in fact quite to the contrary. However, sometimes free speech sometimes offends, and causing offense does not necessarily mean that it has crossed that uncrossable line in the sand where it is no longer protected. My personal opinion is that I can accept some people will be offended by the image, but I do not believe the image crosses the line.

Is it in bad taste? To each their own.

11 comments:

treespotter said...

I promise to try to be short and concise and to the point in disagreeing with you on your own blog but I'm not sure i can keep that promise (Also because i am pretty stoned and i tend to ramble when i am).

We had a few discussions on this matter a few times before (always fun) and never got quite to seriously adress it. I think it is an offensive work.

It is a very delicate matter to offend the sensibilities of the often insensibles, but the general public is largely in agreement for certain things.

I would say that Jesus on a Cross is probably one of the most recognizable symbols in history. There is no way you could use (or reinterpret as one might say) the symbol to 'directly' address the Pope or the Queen or the citizens of the Vatican.

It was a symbol dearly held as the absolute moral compass (however ridiculous the idea of an organized religion might be) for a very large number of the earth population.

I have worked on many art projects, some were of questionable visuals and most probably will be similarly dismissed by Deviant Art or other providers.

It's not exactly censorship, because it wasn't an arbitrary moral guideline imposed from a certain ambiguous authority.

It was a citizen's responsibility in behalf of DeviantArt (or YouTube and any other ones) to respect the opinion of a very large number of its own user base, that took offence.

We once discussed that case (a AUZ Supreme Court case, i think) where the Justices decided on the basis of a site's Terms and Policies. They're a private community in one sense, bound to a condition and thus it was not censorship.

I hold on to dear life to freedom of expression, but there's always a line you shouldn't cross. Knowingly insult the majority of the earth's population sensibilities is, by definition, unacceptable.



..

I should shut up now but i'm thinking of doing a larger poll.

lawcul said...

I await his response..you tube is a benchmark

Rob Baiton said...

Working backwards...

Lawcul...

I do not know that I would be calling You Tube a benchmark, but that's just me.

Tree...

Short is relative I guess :D

Stoned? Really? You? ;)

Just because it is my blog does not prohibit you from disagreeing with me and it definitely does not stop you from stating your case in defense of your position.

I note that the post is likely to offend some, you suggest that it is likely to offend many, the point being it will offend someone somewhere out there in cyber space. And, I was right because it has offended you.

"delicate matters", perhaps, but when we start talking about what constitutes offensive material then this is usually a precursor for words such as delicate, sensibilities, freedom of speech and expression, and the like.

Anecdotal to suggest that the general public is largely in agreement on certain things. I suppose you will have to do the survey to make it a little more empirical :)

Jesus on the cross is a recognizable symbol, but is the argument because it is a recognizable symbol or a religious symbol then it is beyond commentary?

I did not say that it was directed at the Pope. I said that it was in response to statements made by the Pope. Splitting hairs perhaps, but all the same there is a difference.

I would say though that there are arguments to be made that the Pope would speak with some degree of authority, at least with respect to interpretations of the religion as Catholics practice it, and hence tying in the Cross, Jesus, condoms, HIV / AIDS, and the Pope is a legitimate exercise of expression (in my mind) and not a re-interpretation of the scriptures.

Moral compass? Interesting thought, particularly when one considers all the possible ways a cross might point. Or even how the cross might be constructed. Like was Jesus actually crucified on a cross or just a T (watched a show on NatGeo the other day on the subject).

I broached the idea of censorship. I did not say that DeviantArt did not have the right to remove or subsequently ban Heine from their website. This would fit into the general parameters of the case to which you refer.

Nevertheless, it is interesting for its arbitrariness when there would seemingly be equally offensive material, at least to some, still on the site.

My apologies for not keeping the response short. I have no excuses though because I am not stoned :D

treespotter said...

actually, while i was in Israel, i've heard someone told me about the T cross thing. That's an interesting symbol, too.

In a public discourse - just as in private conversations - commentary should definitely be encouraged and protected, it is an important element of the well being of society, yes. Wagging a penis at your conversation partners, however, i don't consider that commentary.

When several billion people agreed on the symbols of Jesus on a cross - regardless of whether He was a sad looking man with hunched back or if he was crucified on a headless cross - i'd say that they're in agreement about certain things. They were all involved in their religious beliefs and have for centuries maintained their 'internal' debates and commentaries to shape and reshape those ideas.

In the bigger scheme of things, i would say that the followers of Jesus largely agreed on several things, one of which would be on the symbols they chose to represent him. I don't think a survey is a necessary.

I guess what i'm trying to say is, along with common sense, we also need common decency. a Pope willing to start a conversation, one should have the decency to converse. Wagging a large penis is just not a common conversation technique.

BTW, i have a post with a very large penis and a frog on top from a while back, you want to see?

It isn't offensive to anyone except probably Penises.

(i'm looking for the said post and will have the link later).

Rob Baiton said...

Tree...

Waiting for the link.

It is an interesting analogy; the idea of flipping out the penis and waiving it around during a conversation.

I would suppose two possible outcomes, perhaps connected, arrest and a trip to a state institution (prison or psych ward).

It is also interesting that you are presupposing that because millions or billions subscribe to a particular train of thought, then that thought cannot be questioned is really a means of controlling dissent or alternative views, is it not?

As uncle Ned was alleged to have said, "Such is life!"

treespotter said...

i couldn't find the frog penis flag, but i found this guy who drew John Howard with his dick. http://tinyurl.com/rdpw9e

I never said anything about not allowing people to question ideas.

Waving penises around is simply a questionable way to present such questions. Invariably people will get distracted by its total visual effect and thus the questions were left unanswered.

I believe that common decency, some degree of personal privacy and individual values are all important to any functional societies. There are acceptable ways to voice your concerns and the system need to be accommodate those and everyone should be allowed to voice even the dumbest of ideas.

We're still talking about the biblical penis, right?

Rob Baiton said...

Tree...

Yes, we are.

treespotter said...

It is a very strange subject and for a moment i thought i was still stoned.

Anyhow, yes, i think it is very predictable that some people will take offense at such (perceived) hostility (penis wagging)and thus any civilized and sophisticated community should have a way to dealing with this phenomenon.

treespotter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

"I am not offended by Jesus wearing a condom or the idea that the Christian God is a God of Love and would be cool with a pro-condom message. This is not because it encourages promiscuity but to the contrary because it saves souls from agonizing and pointless deaths.

The right to freely express one's ideas is a core tenet of my philosophy on life. I have not and do not advocate that there are no limits to free speech, in fact quite to the contrary. However, sometimes free speech sometimes offends, and causing offense does not necessarily mean that it has crossed that uncrossable line in the sand where it is no longer protected. My personal opinion is that I can accept some people will be offended by the image, but I do not believe the image crosses the line."
This is a great piece!
Well done and with a very clear message.
With all of the violence depicted in art these days, it amazes me that something as beautiful as this piece should offend so many people.
God and Jesus both wanted us to Love Each Other. The artist has done his job. The pope says no condoms. Now Jesus says yes to condoms.
Condoms save lives by preventing unwanted pregnancy, and the transmition of HIV/AIDS. Condoms can also lead to a healthier life. Used responsibly condoms can prevent the spread of STI's.
No condoms aren't full proof but what is? Abstinence, great if your a nun or a priest. Okay so not all of them can keep their promises either.
Using a condom is about responsibility and loving life enough to respect the body god has given you.
So let the artist know what a great job he has done and I am hoping he has many more pieces to come in the future!

Rob Baiton said...

Steven...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

The controversy is not attracting a lot of interest, which is a shame. An open and frank debate would be not only interesting but beneficial to all.

I guess my illusions of being popular and read by all are now well and truly shattered :D