St Matthew in the City, a progressive Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand, has hit the news with their Christmas billboard. Joseph and Mary are shown in bed together, with Mary clearly not paying attention to Joseph. “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow”. The sign has offended conservative Christians, one of whom took to the billboard with a can of paint only hours after the billboard was erected (See John Selkirk’s photo).
Glynn Cardy, priest at St Matthew in the City, explains some of the thinking behind the billboard.
“The Christmas billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor?”
“Progressive Christianity believes the Christmas stories are fictitious accounts designed to introduce the radical nature of the adult Jesus. They contrast the Lord and Saviour Caesar with the anomaly of a new ‘lord’ and ‘saviour’ born illegitimate in a squalid barn. At Bethlehem low-life shepherds and heathen travelers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.”
The Joseph and Mary billboard campaign was developed at M&C Saatchi, Auckland by art director James Bowman, copywriter Nicci Doak, account director Jo Harwood, group account director James Johnston, illustrator Dean Proudfoot.