Maybe Sviatovid was invited into the church in the spirit of multiculturalism. Perhaps it was a subtle nod to universalism. False teaching, but a desire for the best for (literally) everyone. To put a false god in the same spot as God’s communion table, regardless of the fact that it was not during a worship service, raises questions of prudential judgment and is possibly sacrilegious.
The United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton hosted “the Sviatovid idol” which depicts a ninth-century Slavic deity, as part of a September 6-7 festival of lights.
Sviatovid (alternately known as Svetovid, Svantovit, Sventovit, or Svantevit) was a local Slavic god of war, fertility, and abundance in the Baltic region.
In the early twentieth century, an idol was discovered near the Zbruch River in Western Ukraine (accessible with free JSTOR account). This idol pictured was originally thought to be the local god Svantevit, mentioned above, and merely called “the Sviatovid idol” for reasons that are unclear or unstated. Later scholarship, however, decided that this idol, also called the Zbruch Idol, for geographical reasons, actually depicted the highest pan-Slavic god Perun, also responsible for war, fertility, and abundance, but who also may have been the god of the cardinal directions and the four seasons. As if this is not enough to keep track of, some scholars argue that Svantevit and “the Sviatovid idol” are the same as the head god Perun.
This is the deity Binghamton Presbyterian hosted in the form of a beautiful, mesmerizing sculpture, during the fascinating Luma Festival. In and of itself, a church hosting an art installation displaying the image of a long-defunct god is not sacrilegious, though it may raise a few eyebrows. The kicker is that, not only did the god “materialize on the altar” of the church each night, “[t]he church spire, pipe organ and stained glass inform[ed] the new work.” Admittedly, and thankfully, the purpose of Sviatovid in this festive context is not worship, but mere interest. Yet, there is something inside that recoils at erecting an ancient Slavic deity in a church chancel of the same God who commanded, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, ESV).