Monday, 23 November 2015

About that banned Church of England advert

Someone at the Church of England had the bright idea of creating a short advert about praying to be shown in cinemas before the new Star Wars film this winter. The advert is nothing more than a selection of people saying one line each from the Lord's Prayer and then some publicity for their Just Pray website.

Unfortunately for the Church of England, the company that runs advertising in most of the cinemas in the UK decided to ban the advert on the grounds that some cinema goers might be offended by it. DCM (the company that made the decision not to show the advert in their UK cinemas) said that it's their policy not to show adverts from religious groups because "some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith". That's a pretty clear explanation that the advert will not be shown in case it causes offence.

It's not so much the policy of not allowing religious groups to buy advertising space that I object to, it's the justification of that policy on the grounds that people might get offended.

I've included an embedded video of the advert so you can make up your own mind if it's offensive, then beneath it there's some further analysis.

The first thing to note is that the advert is clearly not even remotely offensive. There is nothing inherently offensive about The Lord's Prayer, praying in general or a peaceful organisation trying to spread public awareness of their work. Anyone who gets all offended by this must be the kind of permanently offended attention seeker who pisses pretty much everyone off, and so often give liberally minded people a terrible reputation with their unwarranted whinging into the bargain.

I'm pretty surprised that I'm actually in agreement with two people I often strongly disagree with. Richard Dawkins (the famous atheist and Twitter shit-stirrer) said that the advert should not be censored and that anyone who gets offended by the advert "deserves to be offended". David Cameron has also spoken out against the ban. It's pretty rare that I agree with either of them, let alone both of them at the same time!

I'm not, and never have been a member of the Church of England, however I do know and respect several people who are. I remember resenting being made to actually say the Lord's Prayer in school because I didn't think anybody should be forced to say anything against their will, especially not kids in publicly funded schools. However this advert doesn't force anyone to actually say the Lord's Prayer, so I have no objection to it at all.

What I do have a strong objection to is the commercialisation of Christmas, and the ever increasing duration of the Christmas advertising period. I'm irritated by the idea that we have to endure Christmas advertising from all manner of rapacious corporations all the way from the end of October (or even earlier) through to January every single year, while we're now prevented from seeing an advert that actually references the belief system that actually underpins Christmas.

I'm not saying corporations should be banned from making Christmas adverts, of course they shouldn't. But what kind of insane society are we living in where corporations can use a Christian festival to make juicy profits for themselves, but actual Christians are prevented from spreading awareness of their work with just about the least offensive advert imaginable?

As I said before I'm not a member of the Church of England. In fact I'm often a vocal critic of organised dogmatic religion. However I'm not happy about the way this advert has been banned because not only does it seem to be an attack on freedom of expression, but also because it paints a depressing picture of an insane society where Christianity is egregiously commercialised in order to sell products and make profits, but cannot be expressed in and for itself.

I think it's unlikely the cinemas groups will overturn their decision to censor the Church of England, so probably the best thing to do is leave a link for the Just Pray website that these major UK cinema groups don't want you to know about so that you have the choice to check it out for yourself if you want to.

It doesn't matter if you're not Church of England, or not religious at all, some of the countless prayers people have left on there are worth reading. Even if you don't find any of them moving, they'll definitely provide an interesting insight into the mentality of people with religious faith. 

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