Humor or blasphemy?

Is a cartoon showing the resurrection by using Humpty Dumpty all together again on the third day, humor or blasphemy? The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the storm of opinion about the cartoon:

The Australian Oxford Dictionary defines blasphemy as ”irreverent talk or treatment of a religious or sacred thing”, in which case cartoons by Michael Leunig (the Herald on Good Friday) and Cathy Wilcox (The Sun-Herald on Easter Sunday) at first glance could fit the bill.

Leunig depicted the suffering of a man condemned to travel with his family in Easter weekend traffic to a camping ground. Wilcox had Humpty Dumpty miraculously back together again after three days, being gazed upon in wonder by disciples and a Roman guard.

Many readers were aghast; a couple demanded an apology. On Leunig: ”Why would the paper see fit to place a cartoon which profanes the sacred, treats a religious view with utter contempt and mocks the ultimate sacrifice? Humour and social comment is valid but not to the detriment of religious sensibilities at such a most holy time,” said one. And on Wilcox: ”How dare you publish such a thing. It’s disgraceful. And in your editorial on the same page you mention ‘The Banton legacy must be honoured’. What about the Jesus Christ legacy??????”

Wilcox also got this broadside: ”If you published something similar about Islam, the Muslims would be offended; if it was something about the Passover, the Jews would be offended. Well, as a Catholic, I am offended.”

When I called Leunig to ask his reaction to the response he mentioned that he was sitting under an olive tree that he and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, had planted on Leunig’s property (”I regard Rowan Williams as a friend and I have no problems with his faith or he with mine”). He was not surprised, but nor was he apologetic.

Read more: here

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6 Comments
  1. Benedict Varnum

    Strikes me that Humpty’s an appropriate choice for the acknowledgment that what none of the King’s horses and none of the King’s men can do, God can and did. With that context, it actually resonates pretty well with the frequent Triduum attention given to the political contexts around the crucifixion.

    (Open question as to whether all the Queen’s women could have accomplished it, or whether they would just have been the first to the tomb)

  2. Josh Magda

    Hmm, well in addition to being sacred to us Resurrection is an archetype, we in fact borrow the archetype of the egg for Easter and in the Orthodox story of the red egg, so it would depend on the intent of the article. (This reminds of an old, old, skittles commercial where Moses stops from crossing the red sea or something to eat a skittle). These stories are a part of our cultural heritage too.

    At the end of a great book called “Spirituality named Compassion” the author compares the world egg (creation) to humpty dumpty and makes the all the kings horses analogy, and brings in the resurrection. It seems eggs and the Resurrection are forever linked..

  3. George Clifford

    In spite of a deep appreciation for Islam, I’ve frequently been sorely tempted to poke fun at Mohammed simply because a note of irreverence can helpfully prevent a symbol from becoming an idol. I’ve refrained from doing so out of respect for the sensitivities, albeit overwrought sensitivities, of Muslims. I find nothing objectionable in the Humpty-Dumpty cartoon; like any good art (cartoon or otherwise), it may offer a fresh perspective or insights to those who claim the identity of Christian. If words or images can offend or injure our faith, then we are surely in peril for symbols are very fragile vessels on which to stake one’s life. Hopefully, we’re all good eggs!

  4. Bill Dilworth

    Wow, Australians must have a much lower controversy threshold than I thought. This cartoon doesn’t seem like something that would offend many. It’s Humpty Dumpty, not Fritz the Cat. Heck, it isn’t even Felix the Cat.

  5. tgflux

    Geez louise, if ever there were a holy day where we’re SUPPOSED to happy, joyful and laughing (at the devil), it’s Easter! The Humpty cartoon is not only perfectly delightful, it might be a good catechetical object lesson for children.

    There’s nothing so blasphemous as a sour-puss humor-free Christian.

    JC Fisher

  6. Obadiah Slope

    The Joke’s on the complainers: both these cartoonists are Christians (and former colleagues)

    John Sandeman

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