Made out of barbed wire, the expectant mother and infant hang beside the figure of Jesus as a trio of controversial sculptures. The notable and potentially offensive artworks stand openly in the grounds of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Bendigo.
They are labelled Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island, as a graphic link between what happened to Jesus Christ and the way asylum seekers are processed by the Australian Government in offshore detention centres.
“Our hope is that it raises awareness and people understand there is a deep, deep connection between the issues currently besetting out world and the Christian story,” dean of St Paul’s Anglican, John Roundhill, told the Northern Daily Leader.
What do such sculptures raise in you, though? Respect for St Paul’s witness to their community? Concern about their methods? Horror at how confronting St Paul’s has willingly been? It’s one thing to want us to be challenged by how badly people can treat each other but it’s another thing to have that presented as a crucified baby and pregnant mother made out of barbed wire.
If you instantly recoiled from St Paul’s Easter artwork of barbarity and cruelty, the worst thing you could do is only be offended. To stop at the point of folding your arms in anger, storming off in a huff and stewing in your outraged juices.
The death of innocent Jesus on a Roman cross, following hours of whippings and beatings, is about as far as you can get from chocolate eggs, bunnies and hot cross buns. His crucifixion at the original Easter was a barbaric, cruel murder and we should be offended by it. Every single one of us.
But if we flee the violence of the Easter events, we run the terrible risk of missing out on how God ultimately used such evil to deliver the greatest good ever.
As the Moderator Rev. Park has suggested in her Easter message, death is only the beginning, and recoiling from it robs the resurrection of its power for us as Christians, people for whom the events of Easter should inform our everyday lives. Christians are the people of Easter, reconciled to Christ.
If we totally turn away from the horror of “Good Friday”, we might not turn back around to the forgiveness and salvation arising out of Easter Sunday.
And that’s a shocking thought we all should be offended by.