Tuesday 5 November 2019


A guest post by Arthur T....

Edwina Sandys’s Sculpture - Christa c.1972 

The recent open thread discussion about the BBC coverage of the sale of 'Le tableau de Cimabue sur le thème du "Christ moqué”’ - see 28th October 2019 - prompted me to bring to the attention of ITBBCB? readers a series of ‘silences’ from the BBC where sculptures depicting Christ have been ring-fenced in a way which discourages public debate over these religious subjects. 

Previously, I have described the sculpture Ecce Homo, a Fourth Plinth piece by Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger, which, under the auspices of non- religious Amnesty International, was positioned on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This significant event received no coverage from the BBC. Ordinarily, the reintroduction of such a piece of work would receive renewed plaudits from Will Gompertz. After all, this is an important piece of Millennial work. 

The criticism of Wallinger’s Ecce Homo (Behold the Man - exactly the same subject as Cimabue’s) is that the Christian message of Christ’s suffering is absent. Indeed, the figure has been compared to an expression confident comfort and became something of a gay icon. You would think that this would receive positive comment from the BBC as a statement of inclusivity - not an ominous silence. 

Similarly, the piece of work by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmaltz Homeless Jesus received little other than throwaway remarks from the BBC about the piece not being able to find a home in London. From Wikipedia:
Manchester has recently approved an installation outside St Ann’s church. The statue was originally going to be installed in Westminster outside of the Methodist Church's Westminster Central Hall but was eventually rejected [Planning Permission refused]. The city believed that the statue would not properly reflect the nature. The Bishop of Manchester reflected on the importance of having Homeless Jesus. He remembered Jesus saying that turning away from helping someone in need is like turning from Jesus.
This decision was taken after the piece’s position outside St Martins in the Fields church in London had been rejected on the grounds that it might encourage the homeless to gather there - this from a church renowned for helping the homeless. Homelessness is an issue that the BBC hold dear, and quite rightly so. So why, when an opportunity arises to treat the subject from a Christian viewpoint, do the BBC distance themselves so obviously? 

The image at the head of this shows a detail of Edwina Sandys’s bronze sculpture Christa. Hers is a fascinating story. As debutante and Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys (b.1938), whilst living in London, first modelled this piece c1972 in clay. Later it was made into a bronze. The work represented a female Christ. In the 1980s when she moved to New York she took it with her, hanging it on her apartment wall, and in 1986 it was shown in the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan. There was such a public outcry about the subject that Sandys was instructed to remove her work after just eleven days. 

Fast forward to 2016. Public perceptions in the US have changed completely. The work is now accepted and has its position within the same cathedral on the altar in the chapel of St Saviours. Attitudes towards LGBT issues have been transformed. The concept of Female Christ has traction, and is the subject of academic work: Divine transgressions: The Female Christ - form in art, by Julie Clague.

On the ITBBCB? site, there is always a temptation to concentrate upon the here and now - feature what happened in BBC output for last night or last week. Alongside, are evolving forms of bias that only become evident wit the passage of time - Bias by Silence, a new addition to the fifty. 

Homelessness as tagged to Homeless Jesus, and LGBT issues as tagged to Christa and Ecce Homo matters that would be high on the list of the BBC PC ideologies, but by reason of their arrival at their feet via a strongly Christian message, they are ignored. Is the discussion to be denied by the BBC because of their Christian source? Or, is it the aniconism represented in these depictions, which is an affront to the RoP? 

I believe so. Christa, as a depiction of a naked female Christ attracts a double condemnation by the RoP of a) as the image of the prophet Jesus Christ, and b) the female form. 

Yet, this form is of late acceptable in the conservative Christian world in the USA. Our friends stateside have become more tolerant as the BBC with their PC hat on would applaud, whilst we in the UK have become less tolerant for fear of upsetting a minority. An Avowed Silence?


  1. Bias by silence = bias by omission (courtesy John Pilger circa 2003).
    I don't think this is about upsetting Islamic doctrine.
    I think it may be about what the mind-set at the BBC think might upset some of those who follow Islamic doctrine - cowardice on their part, they should stop doing it.

    I don't think your average reactionary muslim youth cares if an artist puts tits on Jesus. 99 percent of them aren't even aware he's a muslim prophet.

    1. I very much doubt your 99% figure. After Mo himself, I think the Prophet Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is held in very high regard as the penultimate prophet and I believe most Muslim children are taught about him, to ensure they are resistant to Christian proselytisation.

  2. I agree with Arthur that the changing attitude of the BBC to narratives and art about Jesus could reflect the increasing influence of Islam in its broadcasting. It has already affected its broadcasting with respect to Mohammed - he can only be described in terms of excessive veneration. So why would this Sharia creep not begin to extend to the "Prophet Jesus" as well - the one whom Muslims are taught to believe predicted the forthcoming arrival of the great final "prophet"?

    Not to conclude that is to (a) assume no complaints have been received by the BBC from Muslims about the representation of Jesus in Christian terms and (b) that there have been no internal BBC memos/e mails on the subject (we all know that it is these secret e mails, kept from the public, which are really how the BBC culture is created).

    I can recall from several decades that there would be interesting programmes on the BBC about Jesus and his life - including programmes on the Shroud of Turin. I can't recall seeing or hearing one for several years now. Not to say there are none, but they must be few and far between now.

  3. In their effort to be inclusive and for ‘all the UK’ the BBC have downgraded the Christian faith so it is now almost invisible. The metropolitan liberals who staff the BBC can reinforce their credentials by this active and deliberate omission.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.