Driving around Calgary, perhaps you’ve noticed a few churches sporting large crucifix adorned towers on their campuses. At first glance they appear to be soaring tributes to a Higher Power. Upon closer inspection however, it becomes clear that the higher power in this instance may not be who it first appears to be. These towers are cellular phone transmission locations. Local service providers pay rent to churches and provide a tower disguised as a steeple for the purpose of boosting their urban signal strength. Churches happen to be the perfect residential locations for housing these antennas, as most neighborhoods are not zoned for structures of this height. In Calgary all of these towers look identical to each other.
Religious iconography has always featured itself prominently in our culture. In fact, Catholic and Christian churches have traditionally been trailblazers of design and advancement in society. Symbols of faith created by religious patrons longing for enlightenment and transcendence have stood the test of time in a secular environment. Even the printing press was an invention for the sake of evangelistic objectives.
Countless historical sites and early architectural marvels like the Sistine Chapel and more recently the St. Thomas Church in New York City are themselves, religious symbols that are deeply venerated. Among many early elements that have stood the test of time include the ichthys, statues and sculptures, portraits of saints, and of course, the crucifix itself. Today, it seems that the most visible evidence of religious creative expression are cell phone transmission towers.
It may be hotly contested why religion is no longer the leader in artistic expression and advancement. Religious art and design has always been born out of passion. Has this passion dissipated somewhat in the hearts and minds of the devout? Is the dichotomy between the church and state to blame? Are creative professionals too well paid by traditional and new media outlets for their time, that religious expression takes a back seat? Has it simply all been said before?
In modern North American society, with the advent of the television, the widespread proliferation of the web, and the addictive nature of the Blackberry, there is also certainly more to keep one occupied than there was when Jesus was wowing crowds.
Whatever the reason for the lack of religious art in today’s times, it remains quite ironic that the former powerhouse of ideas and ideals is now providing power to an eternal stream of previously sinful images, videos, and music. Good heavens!