The looming crosses are neon red, glowing softly in the chilly June air. We are strolling around the Hobart harbour but are compelled to stop and gaze upwards; I pull out my phone and take some pictures. They feel majestic, sinister, overpowering, beautiful. I bristle a little in their presence and say to Dave, “This feels like one big up-yours to Christianity”. “Christianity or Christendom?” he asks.
Predictably, many Christians are offended by the giant red inverted crosses, which they take as a direct, council-endorsed assault on their faith. Many are signing a petition calling on Hobart’s Lord Mayor to have them removed. The inverted cross is a potent symbol, having been used at times to express anti-Christian sentiment. But there is no descriptive plaque that accompanies these red crosses. We are left wondering what it all means.
These crosses are part of Hobart’s Dark MoFo winter festival, and behind Dark MoFo is Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. This big, brash gallery is the creation of gambling tycoon David Walsh. Mona aims to make people uncomfortable; to compel them to ask questions and to think. Mona, one might say, aims to offend. The institution is intentionally sacrilege, and is not particularly concerned with your religious sentimentality.
Mona courts controversy because it can; because it is incredibly well-flushed in private dollars, and has become a hot and lucrative tourist destination for visitors to Tasmania. It occurred to me recently that the things that get under my skin about Mona – the bigness, the conceitedness, the way that people flock there and fork out money to be part of it – well, these are all things that could have been said of the church, at least at its high-water mark in the history of Christendom. The gallery is cathedral-like in proportions, and draws in pilgrims from around the world. We stand in its cavernous wings contemplating mysteries that are as evocative as they are elusive. We wonder what it all means.
While Mona and everything it represents is all the rage, the traditional institutions of Christianity are increasingly seen as outdated and irrelevant. This, I believe, is the infuriating kernel that is irritating so many Christians, when they witness the public symbology of inverted crosses rising up and embracing the harbour of Hobart. The church, simply, has lost its position of power in modern Australian society and indeed most of the West: no longer do a majority of people look to it for meaning, for solace, for moral authority, for social connection. The corruption and abuse of the church and its institutions is now thoroughly in the public spotlight [...]