Eddie and Sue Arthur

Just Pray: We Got it Wrong.

If you are based in the UK, it can’t have escaped your notice that the Church of England has produced a video on prayer which has been “banned” from being shown in cinemas. The first thing to say is that the video is absolutely excellent, and I’d love as many people as possible to see it. The second thing is that I reckon that outraged response of many Christians to the “banning” of the video is completely misplaced.

Was it Banned?

Andrew Greystone of the Church and Media Network tweeted the following:

The advert was placed with an agency who have a policy that prohibits them placing religious adverts. It is hardly a surprise that they didn’t accept this one.

Edit: the Church Mouse has commented at length on Andrew Graystone’s tweet’s below; the story is clearly a complex one. However, this is the least important of the issues surrounding our reaction to the video. The next two points are much more key in my mind.

The Video is Offensive

To get a little preachy, if you don’t think that the phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” is offensive to people, then you’ve not thought through what it means. God reigning on earth is a threat to all of the powers that be. The early Christians were sent to the lions because they declared that Jesus and not Caesar was Lord. At a point in history where we are being urged to buy into “British values” (whatever they are) as an answer to extremism, to say that we believe in God’s rule, not British values, places us in the extremist camp.

Christianity is a challenge to all societies and it does offend people, the sad thing is that many Christians don’t realise how radical this prayer is.

Religion is Bad

In one of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog, I talked about religion being harmful. I’d urge you to read the whole thing because it is very relevant to this discussion. However, for the moment, let this quote stand for a longer argument:

The bottom line is that Christians and other people of faith are no longer seen as ‘good’ people. At one point a Christian might have been thought of as morally upstanding and a good member of society – someone you would cheerfully lend your lawnmower to, now they are more likely to be thought of as sexist bigots.

Given the way that religious people are viewed by much of society, why would we assume that the cinema would show adverts that promote our priorities? We are the bad guys, the extremists, the bigots, the homophobes; of course no one is going to show our adverts. This is how much (most?) of society sees us and we need to get used to it.

One of the things that cross-cultural missionaries must learn is that you have to present the Gospel within the culture you are working with. You can’t start off by turning everyone into Brits or Americans and then evangelising them in that light. You have to find ways to present the message of Christ in a way which speaks into the language and culture of the people you are trying to reach.

We are faced with the same situation in the UK. We have to learn how to be cross-cultural missionaries; how to present the Christian message to a society which has not only rejected it, but which is broadly hostile to it. This is one of the hardest missionary situations in the world. We have been used to having a high-profile platform for our beliefs, to being accepted by the government (local and national) and the media, but increasingly that support will be withdrawn. Learning to do mission in this new situation is the most pressing task for the church in the UK today.

By all means, complain that Christian videos aren’t being shown in cinemas, but bear in mind that this is only a symptom of much more profound changes and it is the underlying changes which are the real challenge.  Perhaps an unintended consequence of all of this is that the storm kicked up around the advert means that more people will have watched it than might have seen it in the cinema. Who knows?

Anyway, to add to the hits on YouTube…

This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

9 Comments on “Just Pray: We Got it Wrong.

  1. Eddie

    As always, we need to fact check the fact checkers!

    No.1 – was banned by DCM Media Ltd not the cinemas – true, although the cinemas own DCM Media Ltd, so the distinction is a little blurred. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean much as far as the story goes either.

    No.2 – The ad had been passed by the sensors and cinema advertising authorities, so it clearly amounts to the same thing.

    No.3 – the statement from the company said precisely that they believed it could be considered offensive, which is why they have the policy and have rejected this one.

    But of course, the big problem with this version, and Andrew Graystone’s analysis, is what it omits. Namely that this policy was only put in place in the last few weeks, in response to a negative response to adverts shown during the Scottish independence referendum. They happily screened adverts for the Alpha Course for years without, as far as we know, a single complaint. DMC not only agreed to show the JustPray advert, but to offer a generous 55% discount to the church. This offer was only withdrawn at the last minute after this policy was drawn up. Given this change of heart, it seems a more nuanced policy would have avoided this issue – e.g. they have the right to reject political or religious adverts if they believe they have the potential to cause offense or upset, rather than just banning them all.

    If the idea behind the policy was to stay out of religion to avoid controversy, then it does not look like a very successful one.

  2. ” if you don’t think that the phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” is offensive to people, then you’ve not thought through what it means”

    Except that’s not what people are getting offended by, they’re offended that they might have “religion shoved down my throat”. They’re hardly by the fact that religion might exist in the public space, full stop, rather than the content of the Lord’s prayer

    • I think you just proved my point that people haven’t thought this through.

      • And that comment’s about as substantive as your entire post

  3. It may be a silly question – but was it intentional to link to the low quality version posted by the channel “Black Friday 2015” instead of the official Just Pray channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlUXh4mx4gI)? That seems to be the version many people are linking on FB too, and unwittingly “add to the hits”, as you put it, of a third party trying to make a profit off the back of the ad.

    • Nothing intentional at all, I just followed the link that others had used.

  4. You’ve got it wrong. It’s not that Christianity itself is offensive, it’s that too many Christians are. The big problems is that too many of us have forgotten that the second Great Commandment is that we should love one another as He loves us. If we live that, then bigots and racists won’t find room to exercise their prejudices within the Church. Secondly, I would like to note that we in the Episcopal Church are working to resolve the problems you addressed, and we are taking considerable.flak for it, without much support from others churches in the Anglican Communion – including the Anglican Church in the UK. Furthermore, the Lord’s Prayer isn’t any more offensive to non-believers than many prayers in other faiths.
    A better use of your energy and this blog would be to try bringing people together, instead of fanning the flames. But then, it’s bad news, clashes, hatred that “sells,” isn’t it?

    • I’m not sure what flames I’m fanning nor what hatred I’m selling, but thanks for your comment.

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