As Atheist adverts claiming “There’s Probably No God” are set to adorn buses in New Zealand, a church has launched a controversial billboard advert for Christmas, depicting Mary and Joseph in bed together.
The advertisement, which promises to cause upset down under, pictures the pair with disgruntled expressions and carries the slogan: “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow.”
St Matthew’s in the City, an Anglican church based in Auckland, commissioned the billboard.
The advert was designed by M&C Saatchi with the brief that it had to be sufficiently provocative to keep most other churches from allowing it.
It is designed to challenge stereotypes about the way that Jesus was conceived, and get people talking about the Christmas story.
Glynn Cardy, priest at the progressive church, told Ekklesia that the advert has already sparked considerable conversation around the meaning of the incarnation.
“Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ. Its vision is one of robust engagement,” he said.
“At Bethlehem, low-life shepherds and heathen travellers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.
“No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders most of them will serve up ‘middle mush’. Jesus will be born in a palatial sanitised barn and every king and crook, religious and irreligious, will be surrounding him saying ‘Merry Christmas my friends!’ No reader will be asked to do or think anything risky, no reader will be offended, and no reader will write a critical response. They’ll just yawn and turn the page.”