The clearest way to understand why Ant Jesus caused such a stir, I’ve concluded, is to forget about issues of iconography, art, and cultural identity. Instead, follow the money.
Consider the annual salary of Catholic League president William Donohue, the man who first took public offense at Ant Jesus:
Now, this figure by itself doesn’t tell us much other than that Mr. Donohue is financially rather comfortable. That’s not unusual. Many leaders of non-profit and religious groups pull handsome salaries.
Maybe the Catholic League is a large organization that requires a highly competent executive. So let’s compare Mr. Donohue’s slice of the pie with that of executives of other non-profits. These bars show executive compensation relative to annual revenue:
Aha! Do you see that? Do you see how far out of line Donohue’s personal cut is, relative to even the scandal-ridden Boy Scouts?
A look at the Catholic League’s activities reveals it to be primarily a media messaging group. Mr. Donohue spends his time being offended. He takes offense at this, and takes offense at that, ginning up enough controversy to keep the checks rolling in from outraged Catholics. If you’re looking for meaningful cultural issues behind the ant uproar- or any of Mr. Donohue’s other nontroversies- I suspect you’re looking too deeply.
Ant Jesus was just another way to milk the flock, and I can’t believe an institution as distinguished as the Smithsonian caved to such a transparent huckster.