Godbaby controversy

A few weeks ago the Church Ads group released their plans for their annual advertising campaign which continues the theme ‘Christmas starts with Christ’. The whole point is to encourage the public to think about Christ amid the festivities, presents, mince pies and mulled wine.

The adverts tend to be arresting and they tend to be controversial and this year’s is no different with the BBC and the Daily Mail reporting shock at this image of Jesus promoted by the church. Words like blasphemous and irreverent abound.

Firstly, the picture is a little freaky. It also doesn’t look particularly Middle-Eastern. Secondly the cries and wees slogan is a little base.

But while both these can count against it l, they also work in its favour. The image grabs your attention and the words remind you of the humanity of Jesus, of his incarnation – he was one of us.

The test will be whether it work, when on the billboards and bus stops it provokes conversation and gets people talking about Christ at a time when he is often neglected. I also think it provides a challenge to the church, do we like our god clean and sanitised? I don’t think it does what it is criticised of doing – making Jesus a laughing stock or reinforcing the idea that he’s not real, just a toy good for a bit of diversion.

One final thing that’s of interest: yesterday afternoon I got a call from the BBC looking for someone from the Evangelical Alliance to go on this morning’s breakfast show to talk about the adverts, and they expected we’d be speaking against the ads. They certainly divide opinion and we’ve had lively discussions in the office, but I found it slightly disconcerting that the evangelicals were the go to people for a voice ‘against’ something.

Simon Jenkins gives his defence of the advert.

And the Beaker Folk point out why it might not work.

Bishop of Bradford Nick Baines explains his not quite so enthusiastic support for the ad.

Here’s the slightly less provocative version of the ad

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