Erotic Photographs & Sacred Spaces
The Diocese of Truro is suing photographer, Andy Craddock, for taking erotic photographs of women inside the 13th Century St Michael Penkivel Church, in Cornwall, in South West England.
Naturally, the self-professed-self-taught photographer denies intentionally causing the “deep offence” claimed by the church.
“I don’t understand it and I don’t see the photographs as offensive, it’s art,” he says.
Given that his website is named Deviant Art, that the photographs in question are hidden behind a “banned” sign, and that access to them is only granted if you sign in as a “Deviant”, I somehow doubt that. In my opinion, this is titillation for the sake of commercial interests.
Needless to say, I have not viewed the pictures – though I might not have been averse to doing so. Pornography sickens me. The naked body as art, however, fails to shock. Had I not been required to sign is as “a Deviant”, I was willing to be open to forming my own judgement. I refuse, however, to have a label, metaphorically, hung round my neck. Andy Craddock will not have the satisfaction of having hooked me with his little game.
What really interests me in this debate is the diocesan spokesman’s use of the phrase “sacred space”. "The Church deplores the use of sacred space in this way," he said. The wording sparked a discussion between my husband and me.
He had been brought up with a fundamental belief in God’s omnipresence and I with a mixture of creeds. We are both of the opinion, however, that what most people call a church is, in fact, merely a building in which the real church – the people of God – meet to worship.
Thus the hypothesis put forward by my husband was: if God is everywhere, how can anywhere be considered more, or less, sacred than anywhere else.
Now I accept that God is everywhere. I do not, however, believe that this means that he is to be found in all people - though he is equally accessible to everyone. Hitler, for example, could not be said to be inhabited by a holy God (holy meaning “set aside”) when he gassed six million Jews. But that does not mean – and I do not wish to cause offence, here – that he was beyond repentance and salvation when he hid in his bunker at the end. If that were so, then the basic tenet of Christian belief - that Christ died for all - would be confounded.
So where is this leading? My daughter is shortly to appear in a BBC TV programme about the Pilgrim’s Trail on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. The walk and the church at the end of it are considered by many to be “sacred” (definition: blessed, consecrated, hallowed, revered, sanctified).
By my husband’s argument, that is a nonsense. All of creation is sacred in that it was created by God, for God and for his pleasure. Since he is holy, it follows (in this argument) that all places – and none – are equally holy.
HOLY - SET ASIDE FOR A PURPOSE
But hang on! The definition of "holy" is "set aside". So where my husband's reasoning failed, he admitted, was in the concept of places being “set aside”.
My husband is a gardener. From the overcrowded, neglected area at the back of our house, when we bought it more than twenty-five years ago, he has created a place of beauty and tranquillity, which is spacious yet intimate.
“I suppose,” he conceded, countering his previous statement, “that a garden is an area designated - or set aside - for a purpose. And it's fenced off to prevent its being used for any other purpose.”
Having seen the devastation of my parents’ garden, by the sheer insensitivity of their new landlord, who brought in diggers and cranes to demolish it, I can only agree. The purpose of their hidden lawns, grassed walkways and rose beds - fifty years in the making – was to provide a haven of privacy, which was in keeping with the local topography. Their distress at its destruction was profound. In truth, to a gardener, a garden is a “sacred place”.
Jesus, we’re told, in an act of what, today, would be called grievous bodily harm (GBH) was violently opposed to the practices of the vendors and money lenders in the courts surrounding the temple. Driving them out with a whip, he chastised them for daring to “turn my Father’s house into a market.”
To a householder a home is “set aside” for a specific purpose as defined by the owner. To Christ, the temple was “set aside” as his Father’s house, and its purpose, as defined by God, is for worship.
The purpose of a church, too, is for worship. Specifically, to worship God. No matter how Andy Craddock may protest, it cannot, therefore, be a place to worship either the human body – per his photographs – not the money and fame that they will make him.
Being a place of worship makes a church a “holy” place. Its violation is, therefore, profane. In my opinion, the diocese is right to sue – if for no other reason than to bring about the removal of the photographs from public display.
What do you think? Leave your comments in the box below.
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Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.
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