Church’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ exhibition sparks controversy

Church’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ exhibition sparks controversy

A church in London has been forced to move a life-size statue of a crucified Imperial Star Wars stormtrooper to less-prominent place after complaints from parishioners.

The artwork, according to Artnet News, was to be the centrepiece of a “Stations of the Cross” exhibition due to open tomorrow (Thursday) at London’s historic St Stephen Walbrook church.

“Crucified Stormtrooper”, by street artist Ryan Callanan, was originally placed near the altar by the organisers, Art Below. It is priced at £12,000.

A representative from the church said:

“[Crucified Stormtrooper] was larger and more prominent than was anticipated when the exhibition was approved. Its position in the church as currently installed has proved to be distracting for some worshippers. As a result, following discussions with the curator, we have asked Art Below to reposition the work, so that it remains prominent but it is less of a distraction from the altar.

Callanan showed a much smaller version of the work at The Picture Frame Gallery in 2014 and faced accusations of blasphemy. He said at the time:

It’s not making fun of any particular religion and certainly not Christianity.

Gallery owner Mark Belda, left, and artist Ryan Callanan

He claimed that the sculpture was commenting on the expendable nature of Star Wars’ faceless stormtroopers, who are “cannon fodder” for the Empire’s cause.

But, according to this report, devout Christian Sarah Jenkin reported the Gidea Park gallery to Trading Standards, saying:

It’s extremely blasphemous and offensive. Some people may find it funny but, as a Christian, I don’t.

It’s time Christians stand up and say ‘no we are not putting up with this’. I’m not going to throw a brick through the window but I will speak up.

In the wake of the most recent controversy, Callanan said:

This is a crucified stormtrooper and has nothing to do with religion. It is not a method of capital punishment reserved for the son of God. This work is like many of my works, using symbology and pop culture and mixing them up to create a new narrative.

Ben Moore, Art Below’s founder and curator, believes the work speaks to a narrative shared by both Star Wars and Christianity.

It’s symbolic that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), we saw a stormtrooper escape from the Dark Side to come and support the rebellion. The Crucified Stormtrooper plays into the notion of forgiveness.

Reverend Jonathan Evens of St Stephen Walbrook defended the artwork:

This is an exhibition of images designed to provoke thought from artists grappling with their response to the challenge and scandal of Christ’s cross. For me, this image raises similar questions to those which CS Lewis raised in his science fiction trilogy ie that, were other races to exist on other planets, would Christ be incarnated among those races in order to die for their salvation?…

[This is a work] that can open our ideas and minds to new reflections on the eternal significance of Christ’s sacrifice.

Art Below’s “Stations of the Cross” is on view at St  Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London, from March 15 to 23.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

10 responses to “Church’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ exhibition sparks controversy”

  1. Daz says:

    “This is an exhibition of images designed to provoke thought”

    Well there’s your problem, right there. Thought is antithetical to religion.

  2. remigius says:

    Why not just have a picture of Jesus?

  3. gary says:

    I am offended every time I see effing statue of the crucifixion outside churches and suchlike all over the country. But I don’t go around shreiking and howling about it. Maybe I should. Maybe we all should protest about depictions of torture and state sponsored murder to show that things have to work both ways and not just in the direction that the ever so sensitive ostentaciously humble christians ache for. And anyway, I’m sure that most christians really do know that a storm trooper on a cross is just about as invented as gods son , or is it god himself, nailed to a cross. Maybe thats why they are so sensitive about this whole issue … because it reveals that the whole jesus thing is a confected confabulated load of tommyrot.

  4. gary says:

    Which it is.

  5. barriejohn says:

    Daz: Well said. The “Stations of the Cross” are fictional anyway, not even being found in the Bible (as if that’s historical!), and as the Church itself claims that the purpose of these myths is to cause people to reflect upon the “deeper meaning of life” etc., isn’t it a bit ironic that another work of art that might do the same thing is condemned as being “blasphemous”? You can’t win with them.

  6. L.Long says:

    “devout xtian…” BS! They are devout bigots with no sense of humour, or art! If its blasphemy then let your ahole gawd take care of it. Its offensive? Tough shit! I find you offensive, I don’t see you caring much about that!?!?!

  7. AgentCormac says:

    As I’m sure you’ve has already seen today, Stephen Hawking past away last night at the age of 76.

    Hawking was a genius who, despite his severe physical disabilities, could see further and more clearly than almost any other human being. He was also a man who declined to believe in the supernatural. Here are a few of his best quotes regarding god and religion:

    ‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’

    ‘Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.’

    ‘Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.’

    By way of contrast, the village idiot called Bob Hutton can’t help deriding Hawking as ‘a man of pride and self-promotion’,while relishing the thought of an atheist burning in the flames of his imaginary hell. If only there were more like Hawking in this world, and fewer like Hutton.

  8. StephenJP says:

    We are very privileged in having had the benefit of Hawking’ s intelligence, knowledge, insight and creativity for 50 years longer than anyone expected when he was diagnosed – thanks in large measure to the NHS, for which he spoke up passionately on many occasions.

    And how childish and small-minded the preoccupations of the god-botherers are in comparison! The bleating lambs of St Stephen’s Walbrook seem not to know how common crucifixion was in the 1st century Roman Empire, nor to understand what is meant by a ‘work of art’ (and I believe this installation has already appeared in a number of locations across the UK, including churches). At least the parish priest has resisted their attempts to shut it down altogether.

    For some reason I am reminded of Lenny Bruce’s quip that if Jesus had lived in America, devout Christians would be wearing little electric chairs on chains round their necks.

  9. Ate Berga says:

    Please tell the artist that the xtians hold the patent for a cross, oh, and suffering.

  10. Vanity Unfair says:

    This is a crucified stormtrooper and has nothing to do with religion.

    That is a very naive opinion.
    (1) The action takes place in “a galaxy far, far away”and occurred “a long time ago”. Does this fall within the beat of any known deity? How can you prove this?
    (2) At least some of the stormtroopers are clones, as are monozygotic twins. Do they have individual souls and individual free will or are they somehow (and, if so, how?) connected?
    (3) How similar are the revealed truths of religions and ascertained philosophies of the two cultures? How does the transformational magic of miracles compare with the power of the force?
    (4) Does substitutionary atonement have any counterpart in Star Wars? I don’t think this has been been attempted yet. Pause for avalanche.

    All we need is to get a few of the faithful and an equal number of Star Warriors (or whatever the term is) to sort it out. Nothing to do with religion?

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