I started (much too long after I ought have done) going through my photos from our trip to Paris last year (Holy Week). Among other things I see I wrote bupkis about it; too packed, I suppose (there was some other shit going on too).
Among the pictures I took was this one:
It’s a great piece of statuary. It’s also a piece of (very) problematic religious story-telling. It’s Synagogua; a personifiaction of Judaism. The iconography is of how the lack of Christ makes the Jews a broken (and somewhat defective) people. The message is, at best, ill-thought out. At worst, it’s a big dose of visual anti-semitism; facing everyone who is going to Mass.
But it’s not surprising, by itself the existence of a massive piece of historical, liturgical, anti-semitism isn’t a shock. It’s not as if I didn’t know the Church, esp. in the High Middle Ages wasn’t 12 kinds of fucked up on the subject. That’s not what made me sick inside as I was trying to chase the statue down (I didn’t recognise it, the way I might Adam and Eve, or St. Sebastian, or, etc.). No, what made me want to resign from the human race was this.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to think about the Holocaust in terms of, ‘That was a long time ago. That kind of prejudice doesn’t still exist,’” said Richard Hall*, a social scientist familiar with Jewish history. But actually we are still in a generation when people can tell their children that the reason they aren’t allowed to wear striped pajamas is because their grandma or grandpa had to wear them in prison camps. The memory isn’t far removed at all.”And if that wasn’t enough, for Jews in Paris, there’s a message just for them carved into the front of the city’s imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, right in the heart of the city’s fourth arrondissement, or district.
It’s been there 1,000 years. Ships on the Seine River could see it from 20 miles away. Tourists from all over the world have their photo made in front of it.
The message is a statue called Synagogua, and it portrays a Jewish community that’s “damaged goods,” Hall said. Synagogua is a woman with a broken staff, broken tablets and a snake wrapped around her eyes to indicate she’s been blinded by evil.
So far so good. Except that in the middle of a piece which is about how to better tailor the Evangelical Message to the Jews, so you can “bring them to Christ”.
In short, it’s a piece which is repeating, at it’s core, the message it’s saying is offensive. Not that the parent site has any other message, the stories they talk about are, largely, about how to exploit turmoil to convince people to convert (“Syrians who flee ‘desperate to hear about Jesus” is one of the front page articles).
I don’t want the world to be perfect, I just want fewer fuckheads. I’d really like it of people weren’t patting themselves on the back for being fuckheads.