Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lord's Prayer and NSS Hypocrisy

Why the National Secular Society and not Cinema is the real enemy of freedom.

After a week of feeling hugely tongue-tied and depressed, Christians (myself included) have at last got a news story they can get excited about. The banning of a Church of England advert in which the Lord’s Prayer is recited has got us all back hitting the keyboards.

It is a story that I confess to being conflicted about. On the one hand my initial reaction was to be outraged at this seemingly petty, draconian and highly partial censorship. If anything encapsulated the suffocating PC culture of contemporary Western society then surely this was it. However, further reflection has tempered that indignation and now I’m not so sure that either Digital Cinema Media (the agency who decided not to allow its screening) were so wrong, or that Christian’s are targeting their protest in the right place.

Firstly Christians can’t have it both ways. Some have argued that the advert is so innocuous that it’s ridiculous to ban it. After all the Lord’s Prayer is so absorbed into our culture through school assemblies, national ceremonies, and Cliff Richard records that it’s like banning an advert for including a Shakespeare quotation. Well if that is the case its prohibition is hardly a great loss for the Gospel – anaemic and toothless dittys aren’t going to change anyone. Alternatively, others argue that it’s brimming with radical punch and counter-cultural challenge (the problem of course is that without ‘a preacher’ most people just won’t get how subversive and challenging it is). But if it is such theological dynamite why are we surprised that a secular cinema chain doesn’t want it (especially just now)?

As Christians we should have some sympathy with DCM – they are in an invidious position. Could they really accept a Church of England advert and then decline one from the Church of Scientology or the Mormons (and these are the groups with the big marketing bucks). Do Christians want to take their kids to see Frozen 2 and sit through promos extolling the virtues of Islam or listening to prayers offered to Hare Krishna? 

Rather Christians should reflect on the comments from the National Secular Society President Terry Sanderson who said...
"The Church of England is arrogant to imagine it has an automatic right to foist its opinions upon a captive audience who have paid good money for a completely different experience”
"The Church does not hesitate to ban things that it deems inappropriate from its own church halls - things like yoga. The cinema chains are simply exercising the same right."

And actually he has a point – and it is exactly the point that Christians need to quote back relentlessly again the NSS and its allies in order to expose their hypocrisy in this area and to make the case for genuine equality. After all where was the NSS spokesman speaking up for the rights of the Asher’s bakery when they refused an order to make a cake with a pro-Same Sex marriage statement on it? Well surprise surprise the NSS were in the vanguard of those condemning Ashers and insisting that businesses should not have any rights to decline such orders.

Surely, to be fair, the right of one business not to promote views about prayer that some might find offensive – should be extended to another business not wanting to promote views on marriage that some others might offensive.  This isn’t after-all an issue of legality, both prayer and same-sex marriage are legal, it’s an issue about the discretion of businesses not to associate themselves with third party beliefs. Neither DCM or Ashers are refusing to provide services to Christians or Gay people – they just don’t want to promote their causes.

The fact that the NSS support DCM while condemning Ashers simply reveals that its pronouncements are not at all about equality or fairness – but about waging a vendetta against Christianity wherever its sees an opportunity.

So Christians should leave off DCM and actually defend its rights on this matter. Instead they should be holding the NSS to account and using its own words concerning DCM and the ‘Lord’s Prayer advert’ in order to fight for genuine freedoms and equality in the UK today.