While Americans have a wide range of views regarding former President Bill Clinton, a Kentucky artist’s depiction of the former commander in chief as God himself or a Catholic-style saint is raising those opinions to passionate levels across the nation.

The portrait, titled “Saint Clinton,” is the creation of Scott Ritcher, a 34-year-old graphic designer who is now marketing T-shirts, posters, magnets, coffee cups, coasters and even lunchboxes with the picture reminiscent of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” images.

“It was one of those creative moments where you’re just like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t this be funny,'” Ritcher told WLKY-TV in Louisville. “It’s intended to amuse and entertain people. It’s not intended to offend anybody.”

But offend people it has, as a local Catholic school has already banned the artwork from its campus.

With news of the artwork spreading online, comments are finding their way onto Internet messageboards. Among them:

  • “This is the most sickening and revolting thing I’ve ever seen. It is the basest form of sacrilege – not to mention nauseating, literally! How sick does someone have to be to condone such trash; but more importantly, how sick and perverted does one have to be to have created such cold and perverted cr–?” (Pam)

  • “President Clinton did both good things and bad things during his tenure as president and he had human failures as do we all. Only time will tell whether Mr. Clinton is remembered as a great man in is own right, but he is not a saint nor is he Jesus Christ, just human like the rest of us. I would hope that if you have any conscious, or sense of decency at all, you would reconsider selling this merchandise.” (Kathy and Jim)

  • “I realize you are an artist, but I think this is absurd. I would be upset with anyone’s image other than Christ himself. … I wouldn’t like George Bush’s image as Christ either. … I guess if you are a Clinton fan perhaps you find this amusing but he’s a serial adulterer.” (Martinez Boyle)

  • “Saint Clinton, patron saint of philanderers, weasels, McDonalds and stain removers. His feast day is celebrated only in Arkansas.” (Donald R. McClarey)

  • “Your Saint Clinton is amazing. I want some buttons.” (Michael)

  • “I’m all for this cult. I think it ought to be encouraged, and I even want a relic: his heart, pickled in a jar, now.” (Tom Fitzpatrick)

  • “What a wonderful way to poke fun at the right-wing zealots. Compared to our current thief of the White House, Bill is a true saint. Thanks.” (Unsigned)

Ritcher’s ‘I Love Abortion’ bib

The “Saint Clinton” products are being sold alongside another item to which some object – a baby bib with the message “I love abortion.”

Ritcher says he’s been reading the mail generated by his endeavors, and he joined an online discussion today to respond to his critics:

When I made the piece, I felt like some people wouldn’t like it, but I really had no idea of the outrageous ways that people would respond to it. I have been more than a little surprised by the some of the commentary I’ve heard and read, and many of the e-mails I’ve received from people who call themselves Christians, and yet behave in such a very un-Christian manner.

The basis of this work and most of the other work I’ve done on the saintclinton.com site, including the “I love abortion” items is intended to be humorous and ironic. I feel silly that I even have to say that. People are so defensive over everything these days, and so eager to fight at the smallest suggestion of conflicting ideals. Honestly, I cannot imagine that anyone actually loves abortion. Seriously, people. I would be shocked if even a single abortion practitioner loves what he does for a living.

So much of American domestic and foreign policy is created from a Christian morality-based standpoint, and that is what offends so many people who are not Christian. Furthermore, Christians continually fill the airwaves and other media with their endless fundraising and recruitment of new members (“saving” and “converting”), and that is also offensive to people who are not Christian.

The vast majority of people who do not share Catholic or other Christian beliefs must constantly sit by quietly and absorb – or try to ignore – the unending stream of preaching and endure the everyday skewing of public policy, and be led by a president who mentions his religious values in each speech. A complete separation of church and state clearly do not exist in this country, and for those who do not share the beliefs of the Church, that is offensive.

There is definitely nothing inherently Christian about invading countries who have not attacked us. Nor is there anything Christian about fighting back (“turn the other cheek”). There is nothing Christian about signing the execution order for a retarded person (as G.W. Bush who calls himself a Christian did as governor of Texas).

I find most of Christianity in general to be increasingly less Christian. For those reasons, I could not be happier that people are offended by my artwork. Perhaps those who are offended now feel what it is like to have someone else’s ideals paraded in your face as if the country is intolerant of any other views.

I was raised Catholic. I attended 12 years of Catholic schools where I feel I received an excellent, well-rounded education. I love God’s creatures and have been vegetarian for 13 years.

I feel like if someone who looks like Jesus looked were to walk up to the window of a modern American Christian’s car and ask for food, shelter, help or compassion, they would receive less than what Jesus would hope they would give. Naturally, this is America and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

I would urge those who are offended by my art to try to imagine where it may have come from. Look at the country and the world from the other side. And judge not, lest ye be judged.

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