Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nativity in a bus shelter – sounds familiar...

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So the Churches Advertising Network are worried that no one actually understands the nativity story any more. How do they plan to make us understand? By putting out this ad (the one on the left, you can see it bigger here) featuring the whole thing taking place in a bus shelter.

Understand it better? No me neither. But I'm pretty sure I understood it in the first place. And if the son of God had just been born in a bus shelter, I'd probably just carry on walking once it was clear that enough people were providing maternity care, as I'm no midwife and I'd just feel like I was intruding. After all, Joseph would probably have enough to deal with, particularly the whole not actually being the father thing, without me getting involved.

This ad has even made it into the news this week, somehow. Perhaps that's because it's just so very original. But there was something about it that seemed familiar to me. Hadn't I blogged about a nativity scene in a bus shelter this time last year (see the image on the right)? I mean, I'm not saying they've copied the idea, but isn't there a chance they've copied the idea?

Still, the ad is so newsworthy that they had some guy from the Advertising Network on to Breakfast News yesterday to talk about it. Thankfully they also had Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine on to counter him, as he whipped out the old in our PC-culture people are stopping us from celebrating Christmas for fear of offending absolutely everyone, which is a travesty as our society is founded on Judeo-Christian values argument.

Ariane does a nice job of debating him (to clarify, she meant to say the world would be more peaceful if there was more apathy towards religion, not less), and he pretty much defeats himself when he uses the following argument as proof for the existence of God:
"You can't prove everything. I don't understand how television works, but I believe it works."
Oh dear. Here's the clip:


Biblejohn said...

Hi Paul
If you look again at the poster, there are people who are engaging with the Nativity, and others who aren't. The ones who are represent Christians and 'seekers', the ones who aren't represent the atheists and those of other faiths. The image is a very honest take on Christianity today - its there if you want it, you either 'get it' or you don't. It's not in any way preachy or aggressive and is a great example of how Christianity can sit alongside other faiths (and none). For the record, I was the person who commissioned the painting for the Churches Advertising Network. Cheers, Chas

Paul Sims said...

Thanks for the comments Chas. I do see the message of your ad - that some will engage and some wont, and that the story can be transplanted into any era in history, even today, and I don't see it as preachy either.

Do I think it will make more people engage with Christianity? You probably wont be surprised to hear I dont. It's not the first ad that's tried to bring the Christian message up to date and make it seem modern and relevant, and church attendance continues to fall. Still, at least it's not threatening any hell fire! If it sparks a bit of a debate, then great.

To be honest I was more struck by it's similarity to the "Chav nativity" I included alongside it. Purely coincidental?

Ariane said...

Hi Chas,

Thank you for the debate. As I said, I'm all for freedom of speech, and think your advert is the most moderate I've seen from a Christian organisation. It's certainly extremely mild when compared to the adverts the Atheist Bus Campaign was designed to counter.

If all adverts were like yours, there wouldn't have been any need for a campaign in the first place. Sadly, organisations such as persist in trying to scare people to religion, insisting that non-Christians are going to burn in hell for all eternity, while Alpha Course organisers also give out pamphlets saying that people of other religions are going to hell. Perhaps you could encourage these organisations to follow your lead and stop trying to frighten people into following Christianity?

Lastly, please pass on this link to Francis:

Many thanks,


James said...

He stuck me as slightly smug when responding to the statement regarding the bus campaign "great.. looking forward to it.. we know people who have donated money" Mmmm
Either way I thin Ariane came across as the winner in this clip... and certainly the prettiest ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. It's always interesting to get a little insight into the people behind a "campaign".

I think Ariane's comment about the level of your campaign being moderate is interesting, and the face that the bus campaign is not to respond to such moderate advertising but those who are far more insidious and vitriolic. While I am not expecting a great politic (small p intentionally) on this blog on your "fellow" Christians activities, do you at least acknowledge why some people (Christians as well as athiests!) feel so strongly against such antagonistic words and deeds (just look at the quotes from Stephen Green on the blog in the last month as an example). I think Ariane's request to ask you to stand up against these bullys is a fair one, and one I'd wholeheartedly support. Do you?


Anonymous said...

Well I do understand how TVs work, and I believe in them (I do, I do, I'm clicking my red heels three times). But it's not really a fair comparison. I'm an engineer and I can find all sorts of peer review documentation on the electronics and use and developments of TVs, real facts. Not sure that is true of god though.

Biblejohn said...

Hi Ariane (and others!). Our ad has nothing do do with the 'Chav' nativity. I hate the word chav and the socio econimic snobbery it encapsulates. As for our organisation, we set up the Churches Advertising Network precisely because of organisations like I cringed when I saw their ads. We are much more moderate and believe in starting debate rather than spouting dogma. I wish more organisations came to us for their publicity but in truth, we are often not seen as Christian enough. In defence of Francis' comments, there are a lot of things that, as individuals, we know 'work' but we don't understand the intricasies. That trust is similar to faith and I thought it was a pretty good metaphor. What I have found quite upsetting has been the level of vitriol, some of it personal, that has been levelled at us on humanist websites. Religion is the cause of many wars - it would be a shame if the atheists get involved in the stone throwing. You're better than that.