Several congregants at a historic church in London were offended by a Star Wars “Stormtrooper” crucifixion that was being displayed as part of a “Stations of the Cross” exhibit that opened to the public Thursday.
The controversial work, called the “Stormtrooper Crucifixion,” was removed from its prominent placement in the exhibit at St. Stehphen Walbrook and placed in the back of the church after parishioners felt that the work was offensive.
The display, created by street artist Ryan Callanan, features a full-size model Imperial Stormtrooper (an antagonist soldier from the “Star Wars” series) tied-up on a large wooden cross with his arms spread along the crossbar and his feet tied together.
Some members of the Anglican congregation, however, felt as though the display made a mockery of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His crucifixion.
According to Arntet.com, the display was moved from its prominent position no less than 24 hours after its initial installation this week after there was an outcry from worshipers who attended the church’s morning mass.
“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,” the Rev. Jonathan Evens told The Telegraph. “Among these, [street artist] Ryan Callanan’s Stormtrooper Crucifixion may be viewed as being among the more controversial images in the exhibition.”
One anonymous churchgoer told The Telegraph that the Stormtrooper display was nothing but “silly.”
“Why use our church?” the woman asked. “It’s plainly offensive to Christians, to be honest.”
Francis McKenna, a west London resident who saw the exhibit, told the news outlet that she found the Stormtrooper display surprising.
“I’ve never seen things like this in a church,” she said. “The ‘Star Wars’ character was a bit weird, I didn’t care for that so much.”
In a statement, the Diocese of London admitted that the Callanan’s Stormtrooper display 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 worshipers,” the statement reads. “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.”
Artnet.com reports that Callahan’s “Stormtrooper Crucifixion” is valued at about $16,750.
“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,” Callahan told Artnet.com. “This work is like many of my works, using symbology and pop culture and mixing them up to create a new narrative.”
Ben Moore, the organizer of the event and the brother of the missing Tom Moore, said that during a 30-minute meeting on whether or not to allow the Stormtrooper display to stay, he “explained the meaning of the piece.” It was Moore’s explanation that led to the church allowing the Stormtrooper to remain in the exhibit.
‘I didn’t intend to upset anyone, I like to raise awareness for my missing brother, I haven’t seen him since 2003,” Moore told the Daily Mail. “With respect to the parish, I didn’t want to upset anyone, I aim to create awareness and debate.”
The “Stations of the Cross” exhibit featured works from other artists such as Francis Bacon.