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Here's A Story About Mel Gibson, An Australian Artist, A Giant Cross And The Second Coming Of Christ

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Ok, here goes. A dispute has broken out over plans by a famous Australian artist to build a giant cross on a big hill in central Australia in the hopes it will usher in the second coming of Christ. Also, Mel Gibson is kind of involved.

So who's this artist?

Ken Duncan is a pretty famous photographer. He takes rad, panoramic photos of the Australian landscape, like the one above.

He's also a Christian and worked with Mel Gibson on The Passion Of The Christ. He quotes a bible verse on his website which he says sums up his approach to life: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

Right, what's all this cross stuff then?

The Walk A While (WAW) project is Duncan's brainchild. WAW raises money to empower Indigenous kids by giving them better access to technology to create art and tell their stories. Now, WAW is raising money to build a giant cross on a hill in the Northern Territory, in the hopes it will usher in the second coming of Jesus.

From the WAW website: "Ken Duncan believes Australia has been chosen to see a mighty move of the Holy Spirit. It will be a Holy Spirit fire that starts in the centre and spreads out across our nation. This fire will then begin to move out into the Pacific region, then into America and the rest of the world. It will not be brought about by any one person or denomination; God is speaking to those who have ears to hear His voice and each will have a part to play."

The cross will be 20 metres tall, and will sit on the top of Memory Mountain, about 230km west of Alice Springs. It'll be made of Australian steel and outlined by LED lights, so it can be seen from afar at night.

Duncan says the project is inspired by the visions of the three Indigenous community elders in the area.

This is what Duncan reckons it will look like. A crowdfunding project has so far raised more than $350,000 of the $1,000,000 required to build the cross.

And who's mad about this?

Well it depends who you ask. Pastor Paul Traeger is a support worker with the Lutheran Church's Fink River Mission who has lived in the nearby community of Papunya for 15 years. He told The Australian that, contrary to Duncan's claims, the local Indigenous community doesn't support the project.

He believes the local community initially said yes to the giant cross because it didn't adequately understand what would be involved.

“The burden of proof is on him (Duncan) to show that the idea of the giant cross wasn’t just implanted by him on the Aboriginal people,” Traeger said.

Duncan needs permission from the Central Land Council to build the cross. At a meeting last December, the project was largely opposed by the tradtitional elders. In a blog post, Duncan blamed "someone who thought they knew what was best for the indigenous people", for the result.

But after more talks with locals, The NT News reports that plans for the cross are back on track and now have broad community support. Duncan is expected to seek permission from the CLC to build the cross again soon.

And what on Earth has Mel Gibson got to do with this?

Gibson and Duncan are friends from school, and the pair worked together on the set of The Passion Of The Christ, with Duncan taking photos of the set, the actors and Gibson, who directed the film. (You can buy them here if that's what you're into.) Also, if you donate to the cross project, you may receive memorabilia from the set.

Gibson isn't officially linked to the project, but he has been spotted in Alice Springs in recent days and The Australian reports he recently took a tour of the Cross' proposed site, and may take on an "ambassadorial" role for the project.

And that's the story of the actor, the artist, the giant cross and the second coming of Christ. At least for now.

Ken Duncan and Paul Traeger have been contacted for comment.

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

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