By Aaron Earls
Not all Easter outreach ideas are created equal. Sometimes you do an egg hunt. Other times you hang a crucified Star Wars character in your sanctuary.
London’s historic St. Stephen Walbrook Church opened an art exhibition on March 8, 2018 with a display entitled Crucified Stormtrooper, which is exactly as it sounds—a Star Wars Stormtrooper hanging from a cross.
The Stormtrooper—the work of Ryan Callanan, also known as RYCA—was part of a larger exhibition organized by Art Below called “Stations of the Cross.”
Less than 24 hours after its opening, the church announced it was moving the sculpture to a more discreet location in the building, after significant public outcry.
“[Crucified Stormtrooper] was larger and more prominent than was anticipated when the exhibition was approved,” a representative of the church told artnet News.
“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.”
This is not the first time Callanan’s sci-fi-inspired crucifix has brought controversy.
A smaller display of a similar work at an art gallery generated complaints, with one passerby calling it “extremely blasphemous and offensive.”
RYCA defended his work to artnet, saying, “This is a crucified stormtrooper and has nothing to do with religion.”
If that’s the case, one wonders why it’s part of a church display or why no one thought to respond with Darth Vader’s classic line: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
The artist seems to enjoy the controversy surrounding his work. He posted Instagram photos of the news coverage with the comment: “He died for your Siths.”
Rev. Jonathan Evens of St. Stephen Walbrook believes there is religious significance to the piece.
“For me, this image raises similar questions to those which C.S. Lewis raised in his science fiction trilogy—i.e. that, were other races to exist on other planets, would Christ be incarnated among those races in order to die for their salvation?”
C.S. Lewis was unavailable for comment.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.