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Israeli Christians protest artwork depicting Ronald McDonald as ‘McJesus’

An artwork called "McJesus," which was sculpted by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen and depicts a crucified Ronald McDonald, is seen on display as part of the "Sacred Goods" exhibit at the Haifa Museum of the Arts in Haifa, Israel, on Jan. 14, 2019. Hundreds of Christians calling for the sculpture's removal protested at the museum last week. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

JERUSALEM (RNS) – A work titled “McJesus,” depicting a crucified Ronald McDonald, at an art museum in Haifa has brought angry calls from local Christians to remove it — a result the artist said he approves.

Last Friday, hundreds of Arab Christians demonstrated in front of the Haifa Museum of the Arts, demanding that it remove the artwork. Some protesters threw fire bombs and stones at the museum and attempted to enter the building to remove the sculpture. Three police officers who attempted to manage the crowd were injured.

The piece, by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, is part of an exhibition called “Sacred Goods,” which focuses on “the responses of contemporary artists to issues of religion and faith in the contemporary global reality, which is dominated by the consumer culture,” according to the museum’s website.

Leinonen demanded that his sculpture be removed from the exhibition because he supports boycotts against Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

The controversy has raised questions about the limits of artistic freedom in Israel, which prides itself on being both a democratically progressive country and the home to holy sites of three world religions.

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, which represents the Roman Catholic church’s various rites in Israel and the West Bank, acknowledged that the exhibition “is aimed at criticizing the consumer society,” but the group called McJesus and some of the exhibition’s other artwork “an abuse” of “the greatest symbol of Christianity.” The assembly demanded that the Haifa municipality remove the “offensive exhibits.”

“McJesus” is seen on display as part of the “Sacred Goods” exhibit at the Haifa Museum of the Arts in Haifa, Israel, on Jan. 14, 2019.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, said she has received numerous complaints about a “grave insult to the Christian community’s sensibilities” and threatened to cut the museum’s funding if it did not remove “McJesus” and other controversial items from the exhibition.

That in turn brought accusations of censorship from the newspaper Haaretz, a frequent critic of Regev’s ruling Likud government.

Regev “refuses to understand that a democratic state is obligated to allow the expression of diverse opinions, even those that violate the current political taste, challenge some groups within society or are hard to swallow,” an editorial in the paper stated.

Although the exhibition has been going since August, it wasn’t until Christian leaders took notice of it this month that the creator of “McJesus” discovered his work was on display in Haifa. “I [only] heard about the exhibit and the demonstrations yesterday morning [Jan. 10], when I checked my email inbox, which was full of messages on the subject,” Leinonen said.

“That annoyed me very much since the exhibit is displayed in the exhibition against my will. I asked to remove the display because I joined the BDS movement that boycotts Israel. Based on the curator’s answers, I had assumed it was removed from the exhibition.”

The museum denied receiving such a request from the artist, the Times of Israel said.

Following a meeting with Christian leaders, the museum has posted signs at the entrance to the exhibition warning that it contains content that some people may find disturbing.

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Michele Chabin

99 Comments

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  • The artist is a Finnish Christian whose issues seem to be with McDonalds and not Christianity. What Jews do you have in mind? And how are their problems with Christ manifested?

  • On the upside, it certainly reflects how a person who eats McDonald’s feels as the “food” works its way through the digestive system.

  • Takes me back to the days in the 1970s when bus loads of kids fresh out of Sunday School would mob the McDonald’s where I worked, helping us all better observe our “day of rest.”

  • Looks like the “artist” just repainted an actual crucifix.

    If you look carefully you can see the odd neck part is really a painted-over beard.

    You can also see the ribs of Jesus’ torso, as well as the loin cloth.

    So the “artist” was so lazy azz they didn’t even fashion the body themselves, just defaced an already existing crucifix.

  • The lack of workmanship is appalling.

    Christ the Carpenter would not approve of such slapdash efforts. 😉

  • Far less offensive of religious commentary in art over a crucifix in a jar of urine. Everyone should get the slam at big-box churches trying to commercialize religion. Mormonism has been trending toward homogeneous banality for decades to the point that people often refer to their temples as “McTemples” and the modern “priesthood correlation” movement as “McMormonism.” Even as the Mormon faith becomes increasingly bland, it remains, at heart, sexist, racist and homophobic, unlike “Ronald McDonald.”

  • I doubt he is a Christian, maybe a secularist. A practicing Christian would not do such an offensive act. I was referring to the ideological conflict between Judaism and Christ.

  • He claims to be a Christian I take him at his word and don’t otherwise care. It’s Jews who historically have problems with Christians.

  • It matters to me that he would call himself a Christian while doing such an insulting act.
    Jews had problems with Christ the moment he was born as in King Herod and never stopped.

  • Is someone not disparaging another group? Is someone not ridiculing, mocking, a group of people based on the identity of that group? Do this to any other group and the outrage would be immediate. Christians, Christ, well I guess that’s just good old fun to debase them.

  • “The image of crucified Jesus appears as a subversive element in the works of Jani Leinonen … provocative works that address the collaboration between religious systems and the consumer culture.”
    – Shaked Shamir, Curator, Haifa Museum of Art, Sacred Goods, Opening August 4, 2018, Closing February 17, 2019.

    “I [only] heard about the exhibit … yesterday morning [Jan. 10] … That annoyed me very much since the exhibit is displayed in the exhibition against my will. I asked to remove the display because I joined the BDS movement that boycotts Israel.”
    – Jani Leinonen from Finland, creator of “McJesus”.

    “This Jani Leiononen and his art are a total joke! Not at all a ‘subversive [and] provocative collaboration between religious systems and the consumer culture’, when push comes to shove, is it now?! All he does is Exploit, Exploit, Exploit. Exploit McDonald’s, Exploit The Christ Jesus (and Buddha, too, a few years ago), and Exploit BDS – all in the name of art. What a total joke!”
    – HpO.

  • “Not Christianity”?! His (Jani Leinonen’s) are “provocative works that address the collaboration between religious systems and the consumer culture”, according to Shaked Shamir, the Curator at Haifa Museum of Art for the “Sacred Goods” Exhibition.

    And “not [just] Christianity”. He took “issues … with” Buddhism, too. See “McBuddha”.

  • Self-explanatory and for the purpose of example, not its own tangential discussion. Feel free to troll elsewhere.

  • I googled him earlier and found a reference to his being a christian. I can’t find it so I have to retract.

  • Still wrong. Mormonism is in my personal heritage and how I view and relate to religious art is my business, not yours. The art piece affirms to me my choice to leave organized religion behind me.

  • Of course there is artistic freedom to display this in Israel. Now, how about a nice coalition of fundamental Christians, fundamental Muslims, sensible Jews, and all atheists and other lefties who are not tone deaf coming together and pointing out that this is tasteless junk? We say we are looking for “common ground”. Well, will this little issue do for a starter?

  • I’m here from the PC left, more than willing to criticize this “art” being displayed anywhere. As a matter of fact, I’d be wondering who McDonalds attorneys can and might sue for displaying its trademarked Ronald in a fictitious and unauthorized act of religious agitation. Totally offensive. Totally indefensible.

  • Its all of our business when you post on this site. Right, it’s Ronald McDonald on a cross – how could I not see the Mormon overtones.

  • On this site many mock conservative Christianity in a way that isn’t done with Islam or other religions. The media does the same.

  • I have to agree. Christianity is a good old punching bag that doesn’t fight back. Apparently Arab Christians are not as laid back as U.S. Christians.

  • HOLD ON.

    “The artist, Jani Leinonen of Finland, who himself is a believing Christian, says he sought to criticize the way Ronald McDonald has become a symbol in popular culture, whose attitude toward him is reminiscent of religious worship.”

    Source: Editorial, “Culture Minister’s Demand to Remove Work of Art Is an Insult to Culture: Instead of protecting culture from attempts to undermine it, Israel’s culture minister has joined the assailants”, Haaretz, January 13, 2019.

  • That would likely be because you are some sort of troll and or bigot looking for a soap box pulpit to spread horse manure from. Otherwise, it shouldn’t matter so much to you.

  • Ultimately all religion including Christianity is opposed to freedom, and demands universal submission to it, with penalties for those who don’t submit. If they could get away with it, there is no doubt that Christians would put Jani Leinonen to death for his “blasphemy” against their religion. They are no different from Muslims when it comes down to it. Religion is simply incompatible with thing like democracy, human liberty, and the fundamental rights in the US Constitution (and other national charters). History is littered with what happens when religion gains too much control over human affairs, and it’s resulting violence and bloodshed. I stand with Jani and his freedom to produce artwork that “blasphemes”.

  • Similar to Pamela Gellar’s “freedom of expression” Draw the Prophet exhibits. Totally classless.

  • They should also show McAbraham on a sacrifice altar and McMoses on a burning bush, two mythical characters from Jewish folk lore.

  • McSmith and a McYoung on a cross with their concubines watching and cheering would be very touching.

  • Go with a “Mcsmith,” Brigham was fat enough to require 2 crosses to hoist his carcass. Nice try but but you can’t offend a “recovering” or “Jack Mormon” with that sort of silliness. No rubles for you.

  • Christians were upset about Piss Christ, a crucifix in a beaker of urine, but no one was killed over it.

  • Not at all. Yes, it’s not everyone’s taste, but someone would have to be stupid to eat at McDonald’s a second time if the food made them feel sick.

  • just defaced an already existing crucifix

    I’m pretty sure that was one of the points of the piece

  • Good to know. I wondered what he was going on about. For centuries, it’s Christians who have had issues with Jews.

  • According to the atheist, David Hoelscher, however (in “New Atheism, Worse Than You Think”, CounterPunch, January 29, 2016):

    () “Atheism, in many quarters anyway, had become intolerant and vicious. … Today’s atheist movement [is] providing ‘a smokescreen for the injustices of global capitalism.'”

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

    John 7:13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. John 9:22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

    John 19:38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

    John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

  • HpO’s comment about Atheism may or may not be true. Either way does not affect the truth of your post — an apples and oranges comparison at best.

  • Its not the most tasteless use of a crucifix for “shocking art” out there. Artistically its a bit lazy in the effort to get Christians to their fainting couches.

  • The art piece is tasteless and the semi-Apartheid State of Israel should be lucky that the Christians limited their protested at the museum. It might fly in Europe, but was a very poor choice to display in Israel. The artist could have expressed his disdain for commercialism with some sort of generic semi religious icon.

    In a country with strong religious and ethnic volatility from minorities of all types, sensitivity must be considered in selection of art for a public place.

  • I would guess that McDonalds Inc. might be willing to weigh in against this kind of use of its image on any public display.

  • The Jewish TALMUD is even more offensive than the blasphemous stature in the museum. Examine the following passages from the Jewish Holy book, THE TALMUD:

    “If a Jew murders a ‘goy’ there will be no death penalty.” (Sanhedrin 57a)

    “If a ‘goy’ (Gentile) hits a Jew he must be killed.” (Sanhedrin 58b)

    “What a Jew steals from a ‘goy’ he may keep.” (Sanhedrin 57a)

    “Jews may use subterfuges to circumvent a ‘goy.’” (Baba Kamma 113a)

    “If a Jew finds an object lost by a ‘goy’ it does not have to be returned.” (Baba Mezia 24a)

    “All children of the ‘goyim’ (Gentiles) are animals.” (Yebamoth 98a)

    “Girls born of the ‘goyim’ are in a state of ‘niddah’ (menstrual uncleanness!) from birth.” (Abodah Zarah 36b)

    This is what they are taught about Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
    WARNING: VERY OFFENSIVE. (actually worse than what the muslim koran says about Jesus)

    “‘Yashu’ (derogatory for ‘Jesus’) is in Hell being boiled in hot excrement.” (Gittin 57a)

    ‘May his (Jesus) name be wiped out forevermore.’

    Yashu (Jesus) was sexually immoral and worshipped a brick.” (Sanhedrin 107b)

    “Yashu (Jesus) was cut off from the Jewish people for his wickedness and refused to repent.” (Sotah 47a)

    “Miriam (the virgin Mary) the hairdresser had sex with many men.” (Shabbath 104b, Hebrew Edition only)

    “She who was the descendant of princes and governors (the virgin Mary) played the harlot with carpenters.” (Sanhedrin 106a)

    “Christians who reject the Talmud will go to hell and be punished there for all generations.” (Rosh Hashanah 17a)

    SO, anyone can see that Israelis have always had a hostility to Jesus Christ. Only most Christians don’t know it because of so-called Christian Pastors like John Hagee.

  • Which is unfortunate. Some of us are leftie with a different set of approaches and concerns. In my own case, I view the “conservative” part as the problem with any of the religions.

  • God has basically determined the fate of the Jews. The following passages from the BIBLE say it all:

    O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you that you will not see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39.

    “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will barricade you and surround you and hem you in on every side. They will level you to the ground — you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” Luke 19:43-44.

    “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Matthew 21:43.

    Most true Christians KNOW that the Jews and Israel are currently an enemy of the Gospel. Their mocking of Jesus Christ is just some of what we have to put up with.

  • It is an ideological conflict that has been going on for 2 thousand years. Unfortunately this conflict has not been studied or openly discussed but suppressed

  • Remember “The Trial of the Talmud” in 1240 AD enacted by Pope Gregory IX in Paris. also called “The Disputation of Paris”. That is when the Christian world became aware of these passages that led to 35 charges of blasphemy brought on by Nicolas Donin.

  • But now we have to see that as history and an ongoing issue between 2 faiths. and how to disentangle the tensions between Christianity and Judaism.

  • Christianity promotes freedom.

    That’s why things like democracy, human liberty, and the fundamental rights in the US Constitution arose in Christian nations rather than its pagan predecessors.

    What you call “freedom” is more accurately described as “license” bordering on “anarchy”.

  • I have seen lots worse and frankly, it’s clever. It’s a slam on the commercialization of organized religion in the form of the “Big Box Church: millions ‘saved.'” That’s why the artist started with an actual crucifix and painted it with Ronald McDonald. This is far less offensive that the Tangerine POTUS serving Big Macs to the national college Football Championship team at the White House, claiming to have personally purchased a 1000 burgers and then misspelling it all in his tweet. But then, 45 is a “big box” kind of guy.

  • It isn’t slapdash, it’s the point of the piece. The McBuddha is the same, Ronald painted over an existing statue of Buddha.

  • There is a big difference in my eyes to defacing the sacred text of a faith and altering a religious statue, which only has meaning to some adherents of the particular faith. Not all Christians hold religious statues in any regard, as they do the Bible.

  • According to the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II, 787 AD), all Christians are to honor and venerate the holy images. We are exhorted to proclaim the faith “in words and images”, so the holy images have a status analogous to the holy words. Defacing the holy images is deeply offensive.

    True, some do not hold the holy images in high regard. This is a measure of how far they have departed from the traditional Christian faith.

  • McAbraham and McMoses put the kibosh on the three Abrahamic religions by the simple fact they are both myths with or without an Mc!

  • McJesus” is more than an artistic insult. It is a calculated offense and provocation on every level – cultural, religious and social, as well as aesthetic. No one should die for committing (or facilitating) BS like this, but it’s more than hypocritical to denounce the expression of attitudes one has deliberately stirred up. However, this offensive behavior gets a pass (and even a pat on the back) in Israel because it caters to the prevailing Jewish prejudice against Christianity and Christians in general, and Jesus in particular.

  • I’ve created my own death cross. It’s a Barbie Doll nailed to a pink cross. I wonder if that would offend the feminists or Christians.

  • Why don’t we admit that this was a prick move by the artist and the museum, out and out blatant mockery? Christians are targeted in Western countries, the atheists, humanists etc are very intolerant of us. Why don’t you just admit that this was meant to alienate Christians?

    Lastly concerning “religion” and violence…You must not be referencing Christianity in 2019 in the West because it’s very rare for Christians to get so riled up. If you want to discuss violence why not discuss atheistic communism? The fact is atheistic communism has killed more people in history than “religion” ever could or has. Let us not forget the basis for communism is Atheism.

    Wherever secularism and atheism exist freedom of speech is thrown to the wayside and eventually persecution and murdering of Christians. Look in the USA how many violent student commie protests there are and how they try to shut down freedom of expression. In 2017-18 Christians are THE most persecuted group on the planet.

    Peace to all Christians…Sola Deo Gloria

  • OK, I’m following now; the 7th EC, which was Nicea 2.

    This was the second comment that I haven’t understood when responding before fully awake early this morning before my first cup of coffee!

  • How do you know Ronald didn’t end upon the cross BECAUSE he was a sexist, racist, homophobe? That’s what the Progressive Pitchfork Mob likes to do with its appointed and anointed enemies/victims. He probably said the wrong thing at a Board of Directors meeting.

  • “Would [NOT] offend the feminists or Christians” – even had your Mama “nailed a pink cross” or two on you from birth to stop you burping like “13 hours ago”, IMHO.

  • Haven’t been on the couch today. Yes, I think it is not as bad as some, but it isn’t really art anyway.

  • Bottom line it is a good representation of the “Christianity” spewed forth by the American Evangelicals/Fundies. Extremely superficial and not based on the teachings of The Christ.

  • The salient quotes on the subject of the Jews and their future came from Christ Himself. It is, shall we say, a bit of a stretch to cast Jesus as an anti-semite.

  • It appears to be an expression of the maker’s “religion,” masquerading as a commentary upon mine.

  • – According to Stephen LeDrew, an atheist himself (cf. The Evolution of Atheism: The Politics of a Modern Movement, Oxford University Press, 2016):

    () Atheists’ “intolerance [is] quite dangerous. … [They] exhibit some totalitarian tendencies with respect to the use of state power … Major intrusions by the state on individual freedoms, as well as imperialist projects, are frequently legitimated ideologically through the rhetoric of security and protection. … [All atheism does is it] legitimates the current neoliberal world order”.

    – According to CJ Werleman, an atheist himself (cf. The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists, Dangerous Little Books, 2016):

    () They’ve “become a pro-white supremacy movement [of atheists] who peddle fear, suspicion, and hate. … [As an example, they can’t even] see Palestinians beyond their Muslimness … [For them] the road to broader public acceptance … does [indeed] travel through the persecution of another minority”.

    – According to Sikivu Hutchinson, an atheist herself (cf. Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Infidel Books, 2011):

    () “[Each of the atheists’] critiques of organized religion … preserves and reproduces the status quo of white supremacy in its arrogant insularity. In this universe, oppressed minorities are more imperiled by their own investment in organized religion than [by] white supremacy. Liberation is not a matter of fighting against white racism … and classism but of throwing off the shackles of superstition.”

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