Simon Barrow

Manchester Cathedral mounts its charger

By Simon Barrow
June 14, 2007

On the argument between the Church of England and the Sony Corporation over the use of images from Manchester Cathedral in a violent video game, Mark Clapham (Reality Bites - has observed: "Regardless of the legal merits of the case, discussed widely on this site as well as legal blogs, the Church's position is far from incomprehensible. A church is, after all, a place of peace, and it is understandable that the sight of such a building as an arena for a gun battle - no matter how fantastical - might cause offence, especially considering problems with gun crime in the city."

I suppose you could say that Ekklesia's response (Church on the wrong track in suing Sony over war-game, says lawyer - scan to the end) has been a little less sympathetic. The Established Church frequently lauds its links to military endeavour. Its buildings are, as I pointed out in my comment, stuffed full of insignia and memorials. I've no objection to that. It's part of history and it serves as a useful reminder of the traumas and tragedies that are part of all of us, in different ways. But it also reminds us that the Church has, on many occasions, wrapped itself in the flag, sought the comfort of arms, and blessed all kinds of dubious weaponised conflicts. It is far from innocent either of organised violence or its imagistic perpetuation. When striking a righteous pose, you'd think it might just be a bit mindful of this. But that connection just doesn't seem to occur. Why not?

The answer, partly, is the overwhelming 'Christendom mindset' (the assumption that what the church wants and values is what everyone else should be made to want and value). This entices church leaders to reach immediately for their high horses, dictats and lawyers, it seems. The tenor grates with many people, myself included. When the Canterbury row surfaced (May 2006) Ekklesia did some radio and newspaper comment, having written to the Dean and Chapter suggesting that a more positive media strategy could be pursued - in everyone's interest. Emphasise the positive: use the 'Warrior Chapel' for an exhibition on conflict mediation/transformation, invite the games company to support it (or make it refuse to do so); try an approach which is a bit more imaginative and community-focussed rather than instantly confrontational. We got a note saying they'd get back to us. They never did, and the case itself was dropped. Little has been learned, apparently.

But there is much to be gained from thinking further... {Reflections follow on "the myth of redemptive violence", the commodication of the church's self-image, and the challenge of 'hyperreality' to our sense of what is happening both in the real world and our interractions with the 'entertainment industry'}


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