OK, Jesus Beats Hef*, 4-3 is not really the title of this painting. Nor is it called Jesus Is a Playa, nor Jesus Likes 'Em Young, nor even Jesus and His Girlfriends. Instead this is Christ and Young Women by veteran Mormon
First, let's consider what the picture is actually supposed to be about. "Young Women" is the LDS Church's organization for girls age 12 - 18. Christ and Young Women is supposed to be depicting Jesus' love for these girls. He's all nice and stuff and like it's OK to get close to him and he's approachable and whatever because he's our Elder Brother and all and omigosh he loves us so-o-o-o much. Or something like that.
So why does the painting fail so spectacularly? (Note to people who actually don't think it fails: It does. Trust me, 99.7 percent of people who aren't LDS and 87.6 percent of people who are see the picture exactly the way I do. And I know those statistics are accurate, because I made them up myself.)
So why does the painting fail so spectacularly? For a start, the pose is far too intimate. Imagine walking into a room and seeing a 30-year-old Sunday school teacher and four teenage girls sitting in exactly that pose. You'd think about calling the police, or at least having a serious talk with their parents.
There's the girl in back with the proprietary hand on Jesus' shoulder. Then there's the girl sitting next to him so closely that she's practically hugging him. Plus the two girls sitting at his feet. Three of the girls gaze at him adoringly. He smirks and reaches out his hand to the only girl actually leaning away from him. "Come closer, little darlin'." Ugh.
Then there are the roses (Alternate title: Valentine's Day Jesus). As my spouse said, "Well... maybe if they weren't holding flowers...." I have no idea what the artist had in mind, but flowers, roses especially, are symbols of romantic love. Even worse, but Jesus' rose stands manfully erect, while the girl's roses lie down submissively yet attentively.
And the white robes. I suppose these are meant to represent purity, which is fine, but they also have the unfortunate effect of making the girls look like brides. So much so that one blogger even asked if the painting was a representation of the old-time Mormon speculation that Jesus was a polygamist.
The sashes probably represent the "Young Women's Values," each of which is associated with a color. Unfortunately, people who don't know that may think that the different color sashes represent kung fu ranks or something. (Alternate title: Jesus and His Deadly Viper Assassination Squad Take a Break in the Park)
Finally, all the girls are skinny and beautiful with long flowing hair and lovely glowing skin. Of course Jesus loves girls like that. Who doesn't? That's why I don't think those are the girls who could be most helped by believing Jesus loves them. In all seriousness, if some or all of the girls in the picture were heavyset, with stringy hair and bad complexions, that might make a big difference. "Other people judge by what's on the outside, but Jesus knows you and loves you for what you really are." It couldn't hurt. And it might make the picture look a little less suggestive.
So how could anyone paint this picture and not recognize how it would look to most people? How could the artist be so spectacularly tone deaf? I have a theory: Some very religious people are so innocent that they are incapable of seeing what seems suggestive (especially sexually suggestive) to other people. They often don't realize when they've made an inadvertent double entendre -- at least not until someone points it out to them -- and they don't see (and will argue against) the sexual connotations of a picture like this one. They're just too sweet and innocent to "get" things that are obvious to dirtier minds. (See here and here [the part about Edward "eating" Bella] for other examples.)
Fortunately, this can be a rich source of comedy for the rest of us.
Hat tips: I first saw the picture here. There's a long discussion (300-plus comments) here.
*Hugh Hefner, Playboy porn-monger and co-star of The Girls Next Door