Saturday, February 12, 2011
Thoughts on Mallorca's "Naked Easter" Calendar
The Roman Catholic bishop of the Spanish island of Mallorca has recently criticized a group of Catholic youth for producing a calendar in which they appear naked and semi-naked while depicting scenes from Christ's passion.
According to The Guardian of London, the making of an Easter-themed calendar is an annual fund-raising event for the Davallament Youth Association of Sant Joan. In past years, however, those photographed were clothed.
The bishopric of Mallorca has criticized the latest version of the calendar, saying that it "turns Easter week into something banal" and "does not respect Christian symbols and is insensitive to Catholic feelings."
From my perspective it's not that those featured in the calendar are naked or semi-naked that's the problem. After all, some of the greatest works of religious art feature depictions of the naked human form. No, what I find troubling about this whole enterprise is the fact that those who feature in it look like a group of baffoonish frat boys oblivious to the fact that their antics are referencing the torture and death of a fellow human being – one whom their faith teaches was the fullest embodiment of compassion and justice the world has ever known.
It's like when OUT magazine did a fashion spread entitled “Burmese Dreams” and used a Caucasian model in brown face paint and holding various tools and implements used in Burma’s slave labor camps! (See here.)
It's this type of insensitivity that really bothers me – oh, and in the case of the Mallorcan calendar, the totally non-artistic way that those featured are photographed. It's just terrible! I mean, get a load of this image . . .
Yes, I know there are many anti-gay folks who like to say that gay men can't help going gaga at the sight of every and any naked male (a ploy that more often than not betrays their own officially homophobic but intensely homoerotic mindset). Personally, however, I don't care how good-looking these particular guys are, or how popular the calendar they feature in has become. It all just looks tacky and anything but artistic. Plus, as I mentioned above (and in this previous Wild Reed post), I can’t help but look beyond any depiction of Christ's passion to the horrific reality of what crucifixion actually involved. I mean, no matter how "racy" the images in this calendar may be, the bottom line is that their reference point is a human being suffering a torturous and brutal death.
Now the French, on the other hand, know how to produce clever, artful and controversy-free "nude calendars." For years they've been releasing such calenders to raise awareness and/or money for all kinds of things: farmers, basketball teams, and organ donation. Now, make no mistake, this latter issue is a serious one, but as you can see from the image at right, no tacky reference to actual organ transplants or donations is made. Instead, we're presented with an artful and beautiful work of photography. And I challenge anyone to say otherwise.
And maybe there's a lesson here for the the Davallament Youth Association! Find a proper photographer, ditch the insensitive references to torture and execution, pose naked or semi-naked if you want, but produce something that has genuine artistic merit – and maybe even reflects the "new life" meaning of Easter. I dare say the bishop would still be upset, but that would probably be more a reflection of the institutional church's own dysfunction, it's "unhealed wound" around sex and sexuality.
Interestingly, the guy pictured from the French "organ donors" calendar is named Emmanuel – "God with us"! I think God is indeed with us whenever we embody, create, and/or observe and appreciate beauty in any and all forms. Please be mindful that I'm not talking here about exploitation or stunted psycho-sexual fixations – elements which, it should be noted, are readily discernible in the Roman hierarchy's clergy sex abuse crisis. No, God is not present in such things.
Yet, in some ways, I sense elements of exploitation and stunted psycho-sexual growth in the juvenile and far from beautiful images of the Davallament Youth Association's calendar. And I can't help but think that despite the bishop's protestations, he and his fellow hierarchs have reaped what they have sown: the manifestation (in a group of young people loyal to the church) of a vision of human sexuality that lacks (or cripplingly limits) beauty and truth, and trivializes the deeper realities of the faith. I mean, think about it: in its official teaching the ruling clerical caste of the church (i) trivializes the rich and beautiful diversity of sexuality and (ii) fails to acknowledge (let alone respect or promote sensitivity toward) the presence of God in lives and relationships across the full spectrum of that aspect of human reality we know as sexual orientation.
So, yeah, in short, I'll definitely be giving the Mallorcan "Naked Easter" calendar a miss.
Now, that French one featuring Emmanuel, on the other hand . . .
Recommended Off-site Links:
Racy Catholic Calendar Angers Spain Church Leaders – Manuel Mielniezuk (Associated Press, January 6, 2011).
Mallorcan Catholic Confraternity Mocking the Passion of Our Lord? – A Reluctant Sinner (January 8, 2011).
A Passion for Easy Offence – Nutter World News (January 11, 2011).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 1)
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 2)
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
The Catholic High Mass: Beautiful and Inherently Gay?
The Allure of St. Sebastian
Bless Me, Father
What Is It That Ails You?
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic