Artist Faces Heresy Charges After Church Rejects Depiction of Crucifixion
ZURICH, CH- Facing charges for heresy is not what artist Martin Gessner expected when he submitted his painting entitled Jesus on the Cross for his church’s annual Easter Art exhibit. However, that is his latest concern, after his work was rejected by the elders of Lindenhof Church and anonymous postings calling for his excommunication were left nailed to the church door.
Asked to submit an artistic rendition of Jesus’ suffering by elders of his church, John chose the classic expression of Jesus’ death, the crucifixion, as his presentation. His multi-media oil, standing 6 feet high, depicts a bloody Jesus hanging on the cross with a crown of thorns and blood red slashes across the body symbolizing the whippings Jesus received. There are also nails through the hands and feet, along with an expression of pain on the face of the dying man.
This was deemed by church officials as inappropriate for the church’s gallery, because there was a possibility of children viewing the image. They felt this could disturb the delicate sensibilities of children to see their hero, Jesus, hanging dead on a tree. If they were to see him in such a desparate state, they may choose to follow someone stronger. A church spokesman said, “We feel that Mr. Gessner has created a beautiful expression of art that would fit well into a Catholic church or museum, but is not appropriate for children or Protestants, for whom the death of Christ is paramount, but the cross must be empty and bloodless.”
This is not the first time an artist has had a piece rejected by the elders of a local church. Many remember the incident in 345 in which an unnamed young Roman Christian artist depicted Jesus being beaten by Roman guards on his way to the cross. Church leaders felt that young children would get the wrong impression of the Roman guards. Constantine had made Christianity the official religion of the Roman world and it was deemed unacceptable to depict Roman guards in such a light.
The artist was encouraged to resubmit the piece with generic guards beating Jesus or better yet, Jesus generically hurt, not actually bloody, making sure that young Christian children understood that Roman guards were role models, not to be feared for doing their jobs. It was understood that many young Christian children may grow up to be Roman guards and such a depiction could damage their delicate sensibilities and cause them to become Pacifists fearing the armed guardians of the Empire.
After his refusal, this young artist was last seen in the company of Roman guards and an elderly lion.
Lindenhof Church elder, Christof Meyer, reminded this scribe that, “We no longer kill artists for representing Jesus in a way we judge unacceptable, unless it is deemed heresy. However, this is not my definition of heresy. It is merely a bit too Catholic for my tastes and more bloody than children can handle. Of course, some church leaders may feel differently considering our present conflict with the Mary worshipping Papists.”
Mr. Gessner has been encouraged to resubmit an empty cross, keeping in line with present Protestant visions for the cross. Lindenhof elders also plan to submit a proposal to Protestant councils to ban the use of the crucifix in Protestant churches and discontinue the extra-Biblical, thoroughly depressing Stations of the Cross. It is expected to pass.
I hate explaining my satire or defending it, but there is a need this time around. The church we helped plant in Texas had asked a 10 yr old boy to submit a piece surrounding the Stations of the Cross. It was deemed that this piece was unacceptable for the context, which is well within the church's rights. However, it still struck me as ironic. Follow the story here and see the art with artist statement here.
We know the people involved, including the pastor and the church elders listed, as well as the young artist and his father. This is not an attempt to take sides, but to shine a different light on the situation.