Theo Hobson

Can Christianity incorporate Daleks into its iconography?

Can Christianity incorporate Daleks into its iconography?
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The Times has a story for the first week of Advent, about baby Jesus and golden Daleks.  An artist called Kate Richardson exhibited her work in a minor Cornish gallery. Some Christians complained about some of the paintings, and the exhibition was cancelled. The contentious works were copies of famous nativity paintings, in which a golden Dalek appeared – in one case in place of baby Jesus, in another as a bystander (or perhaps worshipper). She has now moved her work to a gallery in Cardiff, home of Doctor Who.

I have a fairly strong opinion about this. Christians should never, ever complain about the weird, tasteless or ‘blasphemous’ recycling of their iconography. As Aaron Rosen argues in his new book on the matter 'Art and Religion in the 21

st

Century', various major modern artists have used provocation to ask astute questions about how religious traditions can find new life. 'Unfortunately, the tendency to denounce provocative art in an attempt to defend religion often ends up depriving religion of a precious resource,' he writes.

It is indeed a precious resource for Christianity, the fact that artists are attracted to its iconography, and (with whatever motives) want to re-imagine it. All publicity is good publicity. But then, I suppose, it’s a good thing that some Christians increase the publicity by complaining.