A sculpture of Ronald McDonald on a cross ignites violent clashes in Israel

Artwork depicting a crucified Ronald McDonald remains on display in Israel despite protests and calls for its removal from the country’s Arab Christian community.

The sculpture, named “McJesus,” was meant to be a critique of society’s capitalistic culture, Haifa Museum of Art officials told the Associated Press. The demonstrations began last week and came as a surprise to museum director Nissim Tal, who indicated that the sculpture had been up for months and shown in other countries without incident.

The AP reports that the protests were sparked by scores of visitors to the museum sharing photos of “McJesus” on social media, upsetting many Arab Christians, who considered the sculpture insensitive to their religion. Tal told the Jerusalem Post that more than 30,000 people have viewed the exhibit featuring “McJesus” since opening night in August.

.. “This is very offensive, and I cannot consider this art,” Amir Ballan, an artist in Haifa and a Christian, told the AP. “We will continue through peaceful rallies and candle vigils. … We won’t be quiet until we reach a solution.”

.. “This is the maximum that we can do,” Tal told the AP. “If we take the art down, the next day we’ll have politicians demanding we take other things down, and we’ll end up only with colorful pictures of flowers in the museum.”

Jani Leinonen, the Finnish artist behind “McJesus,” told the Jerusalem Post that the sculpture was displayed against his wishes. He said he wants it removed from the exhibit because he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, better known as BDS. The Palestinian-led initiative calls for boycotting Israeli goods and services to pressure Israel to end its occupation.

Israel argues that BDS is anti-Semitic and undermines the nation’s right to exist, and it has banned those associated with the movement from entering the country.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Saved by the Cross

The cross is a perfect metaphor for what I meant when I titled one of my books Everything Belongs. God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic, and sinful things—exactly where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst and best thing in human history. It validates the central notion of paradox at the heart of Christianity.

The cross is saying that there is a cruciform pattern to reality. Reality is not meaningless and absurd (chaos/no patterns/nihilism), but neither is it perfectly consistent (rationalism/scientism/fundamentalism). Reality, rather, is filled with contradictions, what Bonaventure (1221-1274) and others called “the coincidence of opposites.” [1] Bonaventure even found sacred geometry in the symbol of the cross: “For the center is lost in a circle, and it cannot be found except by two lines crossing each other at a right angle.” [2] In other words, some kind of suffering is the only way to reconcile differences.

Jesus was killed on the collision of cross-purposes, conflicting interests, and half-truths. The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a “mixed” world that was both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole.

.. . Jesus agreed to carry the mystery of suffering and not to demand perfection of creation. He taught, in effect, that it is the “only” way to be saved. We are indeed saved by the cross—more than we realize. The people who hold the contradictions—and resolve them in themselves—are the saviors of the world.

The Cross as Cure

The second sacred image that the cross echoes is the “Lifted-Up One,” and it comes from the bronze snake in the desert. YHWH tells Moses to raise up a serpent on a pole, and “anyone who has been bitten by a serpent and looks upon it will be healed” (Numbers 21:8). It is like a homeopathic symbol. The very thing that is killing the Children of Israel is the thing that will heal them! It is presented as a vaccine that will give you just enough of the disease so you can develop a resistance to it. The cross dramatically raises up the problem of ignorant hatred for all to see, hoping to inoculate us against doing the same thing and projecting our violence onward into history.

The Universal Pattern: Loss and Renewal

Jesus takes away the sin of the world by dramatically exposing the real sin—ignorant hatred and violence, not the usual preoccupation with purity codes—and by refusing the usual pattern of vengeance, which keeps us inside of an insidious quid pro quo logic. In fact, he “returns their curses with blessings” (Luke 6:28), teaching us that we can “follow him” and not continue the spiral of violence. He unlocks our entrapment from within.

.. It is not that Jesus is working some magic in the sky that “saves the world from sin and death.” Jesus is unveiling a mystery that redefines the common pattern of human history. Jesus is not changing his Father’s mind about us because it does not need changing (as in various “atonement theories”); he is changing our mind about what is real and what is not. The cross is not a required transaction (which frankly makes little sense), but the mystery of how evil is transformed into good.

Jesus on the cross identifies with the human problem, the sin, the darkness. He refuses to stand above or outside the human dilemma. Further, he refuses to scapegoate, and instead becomes the scapegoat personified (as we’ll explore in greater detail next week). In Paul’s language, “Christ redeemed us from the curse . . . by being cursed himself” (Galatians 3:13); or “God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him [together with him!] we might become the very goodness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Richard Rohr: The Cross

God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic, and sinful things, exactly where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst thing in human history and the best thing in human history.

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent (as rational and control-needy people usually demand it be), nor is it incoherent chaos (what cynics, agnostics, and unaware people expect it to be). Instead, life has a cruciform pattern. All of life is a “coincidence of opposites” (St. Bonaventure), a collision of cross-purposes; we are all filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled. This is the precise burden and tug of all human existence.