Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Billboard

So, recently I came across a mention of a deliberately controversial billboard put up by a liberal Anglican church (St. Matthew-in-the-City) in Auckland, New Zealand. It's not so much the billboard itself, which was both funny and extremely disrespectful of Joseph and Mary, that's interesting as has been the response to it. Within hours it'd been defaced, and the comments about it on their website, while including thanks from a few who found its challenge to Biblical literalism* thought-provoking, was dominated by vicious denunciations by self-identified Xians from around the world, not just of the image but specifically of the pastor (which in turn sparked a fair number of smug, condescending responses from Skeptical Inquirer-types). I find it fascinating that people who think they're Xian have no problem putting up controversial signs and billboards all around the country that present their views in the most gruesome, graphic, and in-your-face terms, yet explode in a fit of indignation when anyone who holds a contrary view presents it in the same formats. Or, in this case, the vehemence of those who believe, in contradiction of the Gospels, that Joseph and Mary never consummated their marriage.

At any rate, if you'd like to see an image of the billboard (before it was vandalized), and also to hear the accompanying sermon, or skim over some of the (many, many) comments, here's the link. I'd advise not clicking on it, though, if you're easily offended by irreverent religious cartoons:

Somewhat less controversially, tied to this is a second story about the ongoing collapse of Xianity in England: the number of people who identify themselves as Xians is now just over half the population, and of that half less than a quarter (23%) are Anglicans (that is, about 12-13% of the total population). For a church that used to be mandatory for all English, that's quite a fall, and helps explain much of the turmoil

Lucky for us that Madison won his war to prevent us from having any Established church over here (though he failed in his effort to make churches pay tax like everyone else). And yet the recent move to bar someone who wrote a book blasting Billy Graham from serving as a city councilman in Asheville North Carolina is a reminder that the fights of the 'founding fathers' are never really over.

--John R.
*e.g., the idea that God is white, male, has a beard, and lives in the sky. actually, I must say the explanations by the folks behind the poster show they have as little idea what Biblical literalists believe as vice-versa.