Hippie Jesus cartoon angers church
THE portrayal of Jesus in a cartoon book as a permanently stoned hippie whose disciples cash in on the "wonders" he performs has outraged Austria’s Catholic leaders.
In a slim volume by Gerhard Haderer, a popular caricaturist, the infant Jesus becomes addicted to the three wise men’s frankincense.
After the first of many sniffs, a light forms around the baby’s head, which accompanies him for all his life.
The glow ensures the child soon has a group of 12 followers, who become a band of crooks who profit from Jesus’s "wonders".
Walking across the Sea of Galilee becomes surfing across the water on a piece of driftwood. The feeding of the hungry masses is made possible when a fishing boat heads for Jesus’s halo, believing it to be a lighthouse, hits the rocks and spills its plentiful catch.
Finally, Jesus tires of the group’s corrupt ways and floats off into a drug-filled heaven on a high.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schnborn, speaking on behalf of the Austrian bishop’s conference, says he is ashamed by the book, and describes it as an attack on democracy.
The comments have earned Cardinal Schnborn the "Idiot of the Week" award in Vienna’s Falter magazine, but the bishops are not alone in their criticism.
The country’s biggest-selling daily, the Kronen Zeitung, is campaigning against it, and the publisher, Ueberreuter, has received a flood of complaints.
The state prosecutor has received correspondence on the issue.
Several individuals are calling for an investigation into whether the cartoonist is guilty of "vilifying or mocking religious teachings". Some shops have pulled the book from their shelves and Vienna’s Catholic schools are threatening to boycott the publisher.
The book’s web site is also causing a stir. Users who do not score full points in a satirical quiz on the life of Jesus are comforted by the fact that "the Pope didn’t get all the answers right on his first go either".
Those with very low scores are told they really should know more about Jesus, but that the bible "is a pretty thick book, which only really deals with Jesus in the last few pages". They are advised to buy Haderer’s new cartoon version.
They had better be quick. According to the publisher sales of The Life of Jesus are taking off.
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