‘The Evil One’ shows his hand in Cumbria with the opening of a Carlisle nightclub called The Church

THERE”S a big ol’ cross mounted above the main entrance, and The Church’s windows depict a DJ looking like Jesus with his arms outstretched.

The club is the brainchild of  entrepreneur Ben Read, 29, who’s given a makeover to the former Party Party nightspot in Botchergate, Carlisle – and right now he’s drawing flak from various religious nutjobs who find the whole thing in the worst possible taste. It’s even been described as the “work of The Evil One”.

According to this report, Captain Mark Sellers, who leads Carlisle’s branch of the Salvation Army, said the nightclub’s use of the cross belittled people’s faith.

Perhaps we can’t stop them from doing this, but it does cause offence. We don’t see Jesus as something in our lives that is crude or shallow. He’s obviously a very significant figure in our lives and to see the symbol of the cross demeaned in this way is just wrong.

He added:

People’s religious sensibilities should be protected …. Self-sacrifice and the symbol of the cross is central to all Christians. It’s something we are all united around. In the minds of all Christian people, it stands for the most significant moment in all history. But to have the cross used in this way, over a nightclub, belittles it in so many ways.

Catholic priest Father Michael Docherty, who preaches at both St Margaret Mary’s in Upperby and Christ the King Church in Harraby, said he was saddened by the nightclub’s use of the cross.

We need to be sensitive to religious symbolism, particularly in the age in which we now live. This image has lots of symbolic value, and real meaning for people. If you look at war graves, you see row upon row of crosses, each representing a human life.

We can also talk about the sacrifice of the cross – a sacrifice bringing about the salvation of the world. Using the cross in this way corrupts that meaning. Something that should be a symbol of good and virtue is corrupted for material gain. But it doesn’t provoke anger in me, it provokes sadness.

Fellow priest Father Jim Allen, of St Bede’s Church in Wigton Road, Carlisle, said:

Usually, the Evil One does things behind closed doors but it seems that he’s getting more daring and is no longer hiding.

And Carlisle city councillor Willie Whalen, a lifelong practising Catholic, described both the club’s name and the use of the cross over its door as “an insult”.

If it was any faith other than a Christian one there’d be hell on. Society has obviously gone too far towards the extremes of secularism but enough is enough. I find what this club has done very offensive. It’s a nightclub, and we all know what reputation nightclubs have. A church is a place for worship and prayer.

He blathered on:

People talk about giving people rights and freedoms but the people who take up those rights should realise that they have to respect other people’s point of view and their religion. If they don’t then it becomes a false liberty.

What’s happening here shows disrespect to Christian and Catholic views. I intend to pray that they see sense and remove the cross. I’ve spoken to pensioners locally who are very annoyed about it.

Ben Read was unrepentant.

Ben Read

Ben Read

If the name and cross have offended people I apologise but that was never my intention. I have to say that the cross has gone past being a piece of religious iconography. It’s fashionable and it’s a trendy thing to wear.

Yes, business is about making a profit but the church is seen in many parts of the world as a place where people can congregate and have a good time. It doesn’t have to be associated with just religion.

And he reckoned he could have ruffled the feathers of the faithful even more.

If we’d wanted to offend people we could have gone to serious extremes. We could have had all the bar staff in nuns’ outfits or vicar collars or we could have tried to have weddings done in the place but we respect people’s religious beliefs. I understand what these people are saying but there are many bars in the world called The Church. We’re not the first, but you can’t please everyone. We’ve been trading five weeks now and people absolutely love it here.

Asked why he chose the name The Church, Read, who also runs The Office nightspot in Botchergate, said:

Because it’s cool – it’s quirky. I don’t disrespect these people but we live in 2013.

A city council spokeswoman said:

Our planning section have advised the owners of The Church that consent is required for the illuminated cross on display outside the building. A retrospective application is expected to be submitted soon.

A Cumberland News reader called Max, commenting on the story, absolutely agreed that the cross should be taken down:

As an antitheist I found this particularly offensive. I see the cross as a symbol of oppression, death, manipulation, suffering, hypocrisy and weakness. It’s perhaps the most horrible symbol in my eyes, and it’s possibly the largest one in town now. The owner’s points about the church being a place to go make sense, but at the same time it’s validating Christian practises and should be removed.

Hat tip: Ivan