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Justin Welby

Here we go again. We are coming up to Christmas, and we’ve had years of daft stories of silly local councils wanting to celebrate ‘winterval’ so as not to offend anyone except Christians and grammar pedants. Now we have something new, Cinema chains banning adverts from the Church of England for the Lord’s Prayer. We are still a nation with an Established Church whose Queen is crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury and where Spiritual Peers sit in the Lords, but the purveyors of the filth and nonsense which fills our cinemas object to the Lord’s Prayer! Or rather, someone who works for them is worried that someone somewhere will object to the advert. Look for yourself here. The only thing I object to are the modernised bits, but I’ll get over myself, I’m sure.

The C of E is furious, not least because it had been given to believe that the cinema chains would welcome it; perhaps the latter feared that the Jedis would object? The spectacle of men who make money out of peddling some pretty dubious stuff most of the time, objecting to showing the Lord’s Prayer has about it the stuff of irony and farce. Cranmer gets it brilliantly correct here:

it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”. Which is a bit odd, when you think how many films they screen which carry the same or greater risk.

I wonder how many people would even have been aware of this campaign without the ban? It seems that the enemies of the Church have learned precisely nothing from the experience of watching the Church in previous generations trying to ban some of their nonsense (I’m old enough to remember the fuss over Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’). It didn’t work for us, it simply gave the offensive stuff free publicity; now they are returning the favour.

I think the website a good thing, and it is very useful in demystifying the whole business of ‘prayer’, not least for a generation which actually has no idea what it is, but has been taught to distrust it. Far more people will see it now than would have seen it, and it is getting far more publicity than anyone could have imagined. The offendotrons will never realise that their modern form of puritanism is as popular as the older forms – or perhaps they do so dimly, which is why, like the old puritans, they seek to use the law to suppress views which they can’t otherwise deal with.

It’s a great irony, and I can’t help being mildly amused at the spectacle of bishops up in arms because a failing medium won’t advertise their product. We’re told that the cinema chains have a policy which forbids such things, so it is a bit surprising no one knew about it first – or perhaps they did and calculated that this would happen; if so, the advertising agency deserves a bonus, as its tactics have worked to perfection.

As Advent approaches, there is still time for the usual ‘winterval’ nonsense, but let Christians go to that prayer site and ponder the wonders of prayer. God came into the world that we might have life, and life more abundantly – not so we could drink super-sized sodas and eat too much popcorn whilst watching films with a budget which could fed the poor for years.