Here it is:
An unholy row has broken out in New Zealand over a church billboard aimed at “challenging stereotypes” about the birth of Jesus Christ.
A dejected-looking Joseph lies in bed next to Mary under the caption, “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow”.
St Matthew-in-the-City Church in Auckland, which erected the billboard, said it had intended to provoke debate.
But the Catholic Church, among others, has condemned it as “inappropriate” and “disrespectful”.
The church’s vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said the aim of the billboard had been to lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story.
“What we’re trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about,” he told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).
Perish the thought of taking Christmas literally; thankfully we have an Anglican Church to point out that we don’t have to.
St Matthew-in-the-City proudly proclaims:
We at St Matthew-in-the-City are a diverse group of people. What we have in common is that we choose to go to church in the city, in a powerful building, and to experience Anglican worship in the context of this diversity.
We enjoy thinking outside the box, exploring innovative liturgy, progressive ideas and topical issues. We work hard at having a bi-cultural flavour to the service, especially by using Maori language.
Above all else, we are an inclusive church. This means that all are welcome to attend, and that all are welcome to receive communion no matter what church or faith (if any) they are from. Different opinions and varying faith journeys are the strength of our church.
In this remarkable summary we have “diverse” twice, “inclusive” once, “thinking outside the box” once, “exploring innovative liturgy” and “progressive ideas” once each. Not bad for 6 sentences; I’d give that a 9 out of 10 for extreme stale cliché compaction.
St Matthew-in-the-City practices progressive Christianity which means they:
Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
And obviously don’t believe in the uniqueness of Christ and so are probably not practising Christianity at all. In fact they don’t believe in anything much: “Progressives are more interested in spirituality than right belief or proper worship.”
That explains why Joseph and Mary are in bed naked, on a billboard outside the church.
Why worry about Richard Dawkins outside the church when we have Archdeacon Glynn Cardy inside.
Update: The billboard was defaced a number of times and the church has made the startlingly sensible decision not to resuscitate it:
A controversial church billboard in Auckland has been attacked again.
The billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church, depicts an image of Joseph and Mary in bed, and one version of it has already been painted over, before being stolen.
The replacement billboard was attacked on Friday evening by an elderly woman. Police were called while she was held back by bystanders.
The Auckland church had earlier said it is sticking with the billboard, but have now decided to not put up another replacement. The church says it does not want to pose any further threat to public safety.
That must be what Christmas is really all about: Public Safety.