What would Freud say? Here’s the Boston Globe this morning:
[P]olice are looking for the vandals who knocked the head off a statue of Jesus outside a Roman Catholic church named for Mother Teresa. The Rev. Jack Ahern of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta at St. Margaret’s church in the city’s Dorchester section says when he arrived at the church Sunday morning the statue’s head was lying on the ground in pieces […]
I wonder whether this was done in Boston by an anti-religion zealot or just a thoughtless teen out and about for kicks. Maybe somebody lost his wife or children in a car accident and is mad at God, but it’s hard to believe that the target was picked completely at random.
If it was, then why not just choose a storefront sign to knock down? Why Jesus?
We live in a time where a lot of people (not without justification) are pissed at the stupidity and politicized rancor and violence that goes with so much contemporary religion. Thus, this could be the work of a particularly coarse and inarticulate atheist.
Or it might be the product of an internal religious dispute: a Protestant or Muslim attacking a Catholic Church. It’s not an unknown phenomenon for monotheists to break each other’s stuff. Here’s a drawing, for example, of Calvinists gleefully “cleansing” a Catholic Church in Geneva in the the 16th century:
When we think of iconoclasm, we perhaps first imagine the destruction of temples or the smashing of idols, as in the following fearful gesture of iconoclasm, under the Taliban-like reign of the zealous monotheist Jehu, recorded in the Bible, in II Kings 10:26-27:
And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
A “draught house” is a polite way for the King James translators to tell us that the ruins of Baal’s temple were used by the Judeans as a place to take a piss.
But before non-monotheists get too smug here, it should be remembered that iconoclasm has disturbing precedents not just on the “Jerusalem” side of Western cultural history, but also is represented on the pagan “Athens” side as well, as when Aristophanes, in his comic play, Clouds, ends it with the burning of the school of Socrates. Plato famously attributed at least part of the reason for Socrates’s death to the popular prejudicial passions inflamed against him by Aristophanes’s play.
History suggests that the destruction of cultural symbols typically forebodes, not just the end of civil dialogue, but the marginalizing and destruction of people.
This is why we need to find out the person(s) who did this and why they did it.