Wednesday, 24 June 2015

"Let there be light"

In the 60’s John Lennon claimed the Beatles were bigger than God, God retaliated by having the pop stars banned from Israel and Mr Lennon became the unwilling recipient of numerous death threats.

In December the swaggering self-publicity machine that is Simon Cowell was voted the most famous person in the world in a poll of under 10’s, beating The Queen, Harry Potter and God. (Whether God was a person was not debated).
Now, however, it appears God is back in the news again.
A major new billboard campaign, which broke first in the UK but has spread across Spain, Canada, the USA and is picking up speed elsewhere, exalts the beauty of being a non-believer using quotes from famous people.

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Douglas Adams

“I’m an atheist and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.” Katherine Hepburn.

And from the man who reputedly had a thing about God the gambler:
“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” Albert Einstein.

Rather tamely, given their usual robust approach to headlines, our Australian cousins have their own take on the ungodly with posters reading:

“Beware of Dogma.”
Freedom From Religion Foundation. (www.FFRF.ORG.)


“Imagine No Religion.” (An interesting cross reference to Mr. Lennon’s words creeping in again there).

The land of Obama rejoined with:

“Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

And a special festive one:
“Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness sake.

It’s strange that even these strict non-believers use a capital “G” to spell his (or her) name.

As you’d expect from some of the richest corporations in the world, the churches have hardly been silent over the years.
Just recently, for instance, the producers of a TV documentary asked international ad agency Fallon to come up with a campaign to re-ignite interest in the Church of England. Simple black and white ads carried headlines like:
"Church. It isn't as churchy as you think."
"More dances are held in church halls than dance halls. And yes, the lord
does move in mysterious ways."
"Apparently there's stuff going on here all week. Even Sundays."
"Why go to India to find yourself? You might be just round the corner."
"The church educates millions of children. 'And not in a what does Psalm
17 tell us' kind of way."
Harmless stuff, and I must confess they’re hardly likely to drag me out of bed and to my knees on a Sunday morning.

The First Baptist Church in Snellville, Georgia takes a rather more direct route to encouraging the growth of their flock.
In front of the church’s large campus is a sign proclaiming “Free Gasoline!.” The church is raffling off two $500 petrol cards, giving free raffle tickets to every attendee of a church event between Sundays and Wednesdays.
“We don’t know how far it will go with these soaring prices,” Senior Pastor Rusty Newman said. “But it will make someone’s night.”

Across the world churches have stepped out of the dark ages and seen the light, learning how to manipulate the newer types of media and communication. Many now offer elaborate websites crammed with sermons and Christian sayings for the day, some even proclaim their messages through youtube trying to catch a younger audience at play. For an interesting take on this tyou can catch a parody of the Mac vs PC commercials called “I’m a Christ Follower” at:

For congregations languishing by the sea there’s the chance to indulge in the art of “Sand advertising,” creating sand billboards with inspirational messages crafted by the sandals of the faithful.

Try-vertising, as championed by Nike is also being touted to help spread the word. (Nike used “trial vans,” each containing more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. Reps took the vans to strategic spots (popular running paths and athletic events and let people try out their shoes, allowing consumers to make up their minds based on their own personal experience).

“What if churches had trial vans?” asks Kent Shaffer, writer and founder of Shaffer concludes that “a church could feed its live or pre-recorded services to trial vans with big-screen TVs, and then show up at strategic places on Sunday mornings where lots of non-churchgoers gather. They could experience church and decide for themselves.”

Unfortunately the need to proselytize comes all too naturally to those on both sides of the fence of devotion often leading to repetition of old, tired and trite stances. The Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast, for example, was recently slapped by the UK Advertising Standards Authority for using strong biblical references to campaign against homosexuality, with a press ad reading:
“Thou shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind;
it is an abomination.”

For true believers however, returning to the home of Mr. Lennon and his fellow Merseybeaters, as you drive into the hallowed land of Liverpool there’s a concrete bridge over the motorway made famous because some evangelical tagger once sprayed “JESUS SAVES!” on it; to which some scouse wit added “RUSH SCORES ON THE REBOUND.” Amen to that.

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