Kill Your Idol banned by TfL
There is an exhibition at St Marylebone Church of the work of 20 artists' representations of the Stations of the Cross. Throughout Lent, some of these have been approved by TfL to appear on the London Underground.
But not this one.
Antony Micallef's 'Kill Your Idol' is a representation of the first station, where Jesus is condemned to death. It is the view of St Marylebone's Rector, the Rev'd CanonStephen Evans, that this work "raises important contemporary questions about the fickleness and shallowness of fame and celebrity, success and failure. About who has the power to say just who is going to be a 'hit' and who a 'miss'."
The omnipotent X-Factor celebs sit in judgment not only upon would-be global superstars, but upon us all, for they reflect the obsessions of our contemporary culture. X-Factor mania has swept the western world: it is the 1984 of the new interactive media age. It is defining and creating reality, permitting the masses to live vicariously the ecstasy of others; to fulfil their fantasies and to dream big dreams.
Antony Micallef's satire is not offensive; it is biblical. Quite why TfL deem it inappropriate for public display is something of a mystery, especially given the offence manifestly caused by previous posters. Why might this cause "widespread or serious offence to members of the public", but not those TfL-endorsed advertisements which deny the very existence of God and exhort believers to "get over it"?
Like Simon Cowell, Micallef has grasped the public mood of impotence: a pervasive lack of faith in politicians and religious leaders, universal exasperation with bureaucracy and ubiquitous frustration with the great institutions of state. There is an epistemic distance between those who wield power and those upon whom that power is wielded. The fragile social contract is in danger of being torn up, not simply because the good times are gone, but because there is a feeling that things will never get better.
Reconnecting with the marginalised; engaging the dispossessed; reversing the indifference; enthusing the cynical, jaded and despairing: these are the principal tasks which must occupy our political and religious leaders. And the remedy must produce happiness and peace: not ephemeral jollity or ignorant dormancy, but enduring happiness and the peace which passes understanding. Until the Christian faith revives the spirit and renews the heart, its perceived usefulness will be increasingly eroded by its institutional failures.
Unless our religious discourse is to be reduced to the mono-dimension of single-cause issues, there is a need for the Church to return to an understanding of its mission to preach the gospel, and to do so where the people are at and in a language they can understand. The public can tell the difference between real Cowell contention and staged angst, and their engagement is heightened when the stresses, intolerance and conflict are authentic.
The X-Factor-style jury sitting in judgment upon Christ ought not to be censored, but displayed on billboards throughout the land. It is how we judge Him today - as a desperate pop idol yearning for attention in the marketplace, instead of as the Light of the World and Saviour of mankind. 'Kill Your Idol' is a perfect metaphor for the age; indeed, it is the sort of art that the church ought to be commissioning and paying to display, for it is a comprehensible, powerful and thought-provoking language of evangelism.
As Holy Week approaches, it is worth reflecting on how we judge the Son of God today, and what precisely a modern TV audience makes of Him.