Iconoclasm Alive and Well: Man Lops Head Off Jesus Statue in Charleston

A man has destroyed a statue of Jesus in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, decapitating the 6-foot figure with a sledgehammer.

The statue had stood for two decades outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Charleston before Charles Jeffrey Short, 38, exercised a kind of political theater, demonstrating his view that the Ten Commandments should be taken literally.

Iconoclast Charles Jeffrey Short

It seems the vandal didn’t even know the specific Scripture verse which required him to destroy the religious art.  According to a report on Charleston’s ABC News4:

According to police, 38-year-old Charles Jeffrey Short was arrested near Sacred Heart Catholic Church. He was carrying a sledgehammer in a backpack at the time of his arrest.

While police were looking for a suspect, they saw Short and asked him where he was coming from; he pointed to the church, according to the report.

The report states officers asked him about the vandalism and Short said he had hit the statue several times.

“I think I used a sledge hammer to strike that statue about six or seven times, because the first or second commandment states to not make an image of a male or female to be on display to the public,” he reportedly told officers.

Short is suspected in another vandalism which occurred just two days earlier at the same church.  In that instance, both Jesus and a child were beheaded.  The marble statue, which had stood in front of the church since 1996, is valued at $5,000.

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The malicious practice of decapitating or defacing Christian sculptures is not new.

Some years ago, it was my privilege to travel through France.  Of course there were vineyards and wineries, chateaux and patisseries.  But one thing that gnawed at my heart during the trip was the number of great religious sites which had been vandalized:  churches burned or converted to stables, statues with their heads lopped off.  

The destruction of religious property in France occurred at the hands of both iconoclasts and revolutionaries:

  • Iconoclasts take a literal view of the First Commandment, which proscribes the making and worshipping of “graven images or any likeness of anything.”
  • During the French Revolution, revolutionaries thought that the social, political, and religious values expressed in the art of the pre-1789 era were, in revolutionary terms, “untrue” and needed to be destroyed.

Today, here in America, we see the same logic applied by some who would seek to destroy the art of the Church:

Jesus defaced – Vineland, New Jersey

Earlier this year, a vandal in Vineland, New Jersey damaged several statues at Sacred Heart and St. Francis of Assisi churches in the Diocese of Camden.  The Christian Post reported:

“When you look at how methodical the person was who did this, cutting off the heads, gouging out the eyes, there’s some kind of sicko message being communicated,” Peter Feuerherd, director of Communications for the Catholic Diocese of Camden, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. “We don’t know what that message is, but it is obviously the product of a mind which is disturbed.”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph defaced at St. Francis of Assisi church

The two churches in Feuerherd’s diocese that were attacked last Wednesday night were Sacred Heart Church and St. Francis of Assisi Church. The vandals hacked off the head of a statue of the Virgin Mary, sliced a statue of Joseph in half, hammered in the faces of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) in another statue, according to CBS Local. Reporter Cleve Bryan summarized the damage, saying “the likenesses of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and more were smashed, hacked, and in several cases, decapitated.”

 

Statue of Jesus at St. Anne’s Church, Emmaus, PA

In February 2014, at St. Anne’s in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, vandals completely burned off the face of Jesus on an outdoor statue.   This is not the first incident of vandalism at St. Ann’s: Statues of Jesus and of Mary have been repeatedly toppled over and the church’s wall was once spray-painted with “666″ and other satanic references.

Roswell, GA

And then, there was the spray-painting of Jesus at St. Peter Chanel in Roswell, Georgia, on Easter morning.

And on and on it goes.

I’ve gotta say this:  This Jesus guy, who has so many enemies, must be incredibly dangerous and powerful.  Why else would anyone care enough to damage his image?

Let us pray that He will touch their hearts, and lead them to His own Sacred Heart.


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