Digital Cinema Media, which manages advertising for Odeon, has refused to show an advertisement which was basically Christian proselytising, as people may find it offensive. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who features in it, says (as quoted in The Times) that its “about as offensive as a carol service on Christmas Day… I think people need to watch the film and come to their own conclusions as to whether it is offensive or upsetting.”
Thus demonstrating that the Archbishop of Canterbury has completely missed the point. What’s offensive is subjecting people who’ve paid good money to go and see Star Wars to religious proselytising. I don’t go to my local church and stand up at the front and say “OK guys, before you do all the god stuff, I’d just like to tell you a bit about atheism.” I respect religious people’s right to be religious on their own time and in their own chosen place. Religious people should do the same and respect my right not to have their beliefs shoved down my throat when all I want is a good lightsabre fight and some cool spaceships.
People do not need to watch an advertisement for a prayer website telling them how to pray, and then decide whether or not they were offended by having their viewing pleasure interrupted. They do not need to be subjected to proselytising without their consent, when it gives them a choice between sitting through it and walking out of the cinema.
I suppose one might think I’m getting rather exercised over what is, (in my opinion!) basically, someone wanting to talk about their imaginary friend. I suppose I should smile nicely, and say “Yes, dear, whatever you say, that’s lovely.” Or just doze through the whole thing, like any other boring advert for a product that I’m slightly less interested in than a penis enlargement. But since these people use their imaginary friend to get free seats in the House of Lords, and to force people with serious diseases to live in pain and misery, I’m slightly less sympathetic to them than to less dangerous people with imaginary friends.
Not for nothing are religion and politics no-go areas at polite dinner parties (or so I hear). What the Archbishop of Canterbury fails to realise is that there is a time and there is a place for proselytising. Any time that people have paid to experience something completely different, and any place where people can’t leave without abandoning what they’ve paid for, is not it.
Of course, on the other hand, maybe I should be glad that the Archbishop of Canterbury – in this time of falling congregation numbers – clearly doesn’t feel that voluntary recruiting is cutting the mustard, and he has to ambush a captive audience. What next, I wonder? Press gangs? Will Sundays become a time of danger as roving parties of deacons patrol the streets, bashing the unwary over the head and dragging them off to Evensong? Or getting people drunk and incapable, then locking them up until they wake up in a choir stall?
The Archbishop has made a fool of himself over this – twice: once in having the advert made at all, and once in not taking his rejection with good grace. Really, is that the impression he wants to give of the Church of England? An organisation that is not only so desperate for new blood that it ambushes filmgoers, but also is a bad loser?
If I were Anglican, it would be like that moment when your friend says something utterly, utterly stupid/racist/homophobic in public, and you just don’t know where to look (it happened; we’re not friends any more).
Good thing I’m not Anglican. I’m an atheist, and I can watch the whole train wreck from a distance. With popcorn.