Thursday, January 08, 2009

Purpose of the Cross

A large sculpture of Christ on the cross has been removed from outside a church in West Sussex after its vicar said it was "scaring young children". The Reverend Ewen Souter said the 10ft crucifix was "a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering". [Daily Telegraph, 6 January 2009, BBC News, 7 January 2009]

Actually, I thought that was the whole point of the crucifix - to serve as a permanent reminder of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. If Christians prefer an abstract cross rather than a graphic rendering of a man in agony, then perhaps they should convert to a religion that avoids all graven images of God and prefers geometric figures instead.

The sculpture was the work of Edward Bainbridge Copnall, who had lived locally. Some of the debate has focused on the aesthetic quality of the sculpture, but that's a problematic notion as well. Not all religious art can be world-class, can it, and not every church can be lucky enough to have pieces by famous artists. Meanwhile, Copnall is better-known than he was last week, and pilgrims will doubtless be planning an extra stop at Horsham Museum (where the sculpture now resides) on their way to Canterbury.

See also comments by Damian Thompson and George Pitcher.

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