Idol Chatter

I was only reading it for the articles, I swear. But an Idol Chatter editor brought this Playboy cover to my attention, featuring model Maria Florencia Onori posing as the Virgin Mary. She’s not naked, but is instead wearing a suggestively draped white cloth.
The issue’s release was timed for the day before Mexico’s traditional Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a celebration of an apparition of the Virgin in the town, and the headline reads in Spanish: “We adore you, Mary.”
As Playboy covers go, I don’t think this is the most sordid or explicit one there’s ever been. But since we’re heading into Christmas, I thought it seemed like a good time to start a discussion about what the limits of art are when it comes to depicting religious iconography.

Now, I’m not a Christian, so while I’m personally not offended by the depiction, I realize that to religious Christians who honor Mary as an integral and holy Biblical character, this likely amounts to desecration, and probably blasphemy.
Can any depiction of a religiously important figure in any kind of controversial context ever be considered art? This “Mary” (possibly named after the model, although a clear parallel to the Virgin is established by the pose and context) is actually less-scantily clad than other Playboy models, but is the implication (the Virgin Mary associated with pornography) itself the blasphemy that allows us to judge the magazine by its cover? And — for the sake of an even larger discussion — is this kind of image any less crass or blasphemous than the commercialization of Christmas?

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