When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.
Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an "anti-blasphemy" campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.
So what do we make of this? My first reaction was, "aww, that's a shame." Still, I sense there's more to it.
Clearly the work was meant as an insult, but is destroying the expression of an insult the way to go? It's a tough question, especially since I recently was deploring the way political opponents shout people down in Madison. How should one react?
I would say this: we certainly shouldn't hold sacred an object that was designed to be blasphemous, but at the same time I'd have preferred either of two alternatives have happened:
1) We continue to talk about such things and make our displeasure clear, without resorting to destruction; or
2) The better option -- we do a better job of ignoring such sophomoric provocations when they happen, because doing so robs the provocateur of his power.
What say you?