Thought for the Day - Rev Roy Jenkins
The world’s tallest statue of Jesus is due to be inaugurated in the capital of Peru later this month, and an unholy row surfaced this week.
The 121-foot high figure is a pet project of outgoing president Alan Garcia, who reckons it will ‘bless Peru and protect Lima’. The city’s mayor is unconvinced and claims she wasn’t consulted, and a prominent architect has dismissed it as ‘an excessive and authoritarian gesture’.
It’s also a bid for the record books, and what astonished me yesterday was to discover that there’s quite a competition for the title of the world’s tallest Jesus. I was pretty sure I’d gazed up on him in the open-armed figure of Christ the Redeemer, towering over Rio de Janeiro; but apparently there are rival claims from Bolivia and from Poland. It seems it all depends on whether you also measure pedestals or earth mounds, and in the Polish case, a crown.
They’d all disappear into a mere dot, of course, alongside the Dubai skyscraper whose 160 floors reach more than 2,700 feet – or threequarters of the way up Snowdon. It’s hailed as a symbolic beacon of progress’…the triumph of the Gulf State’s ‘vision of attaining the seemingly impossible’. I think I’d prefer to be on Snowdon, but I can understand the desire to assert your importance by reaching upwards – human beings have been doing it since the Biblical Tower of Babel, though the hubris involved in that meant a sticky end to the whole project.
Whether the figure of Christ should be brought into such aspiration I’m not at all sure. The notion of ‘my Jesus is bigger than yours’ sits uneasily alongside the gospel accounts of one who told his followers that the first would be last, warned them not to jostle for position, insisted on the way of humility, knelt to wash feet, and spread out his hands so that nails could be hammered into them. Yes, his resurrection and ascension speak of the ultimate triumph of his way of love, but its reality is seen most vividly in those who lives of service and sacrifice leave little time for the demands of competition.
I accept that a massive statue, visible from the slums and shanty towns where the poorest people eke out a precarious daily existence, might well offer some kind of hope. But it can’t of itself make them or their cities more secure - any more than the residents of Tyneside should sleep soundly because Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North guards the approach to Gateshead.
I would like a bigger image of Jesus, though. I know it’s not a bigger pile of stone and reinforced concrete I need for that; just a bigger heart.