The Church of England has been in the news quite a bit recently. The Church is ‘bewildered’ that an advert with the Lord’s Prayer has been banned by cinemas and the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed doubt in God. I have to confess that I am also ‘bewildered’ at all of this for a number of reasons.
The cinema advert is a novel move. It is linked to a web based initiative to encourage prayer, so it is an advertisement for something specific and not just an attempt to convert the audience! The content is the prayer itself with a link tagged on at the end. Harmless one would think. So why the ban?
It seems the advertising agency did some fancy footwork and concocted a rule saying that they do not advertise religious or political content. They are happy to show ads of sexually explicit or extreme violence, but not religion or politics!
On those grounds we should support the Lord’s Prayer advert, but there is another factor. If they say yes to this, what else might they have to let through? What other faiths, religions and cults would want to target us with their teaching? The distasteful adverts may be an affront to morals, but religion addresses something far deeper about the human spirit and that is something much more fragile in these spiritually charged times when there is a battle raging all around us.
All of which makes the admission of the Archbishop all the more astounding. Justin Welby’s comments in the Songs of Praise interview are quite peculiar. Admittedly he answers his own expressed doubts by confessing that God was right alongside the victims of the attacks in Paris. But that isn’t what gets reported. Many only hear that this key Church leader doubts God. Oops! Surely someone of his experience should have known how his comments would be reported?
Further I am astonished that my boss in the Church did even initially question the presence of God, because of the Paris attacks. They are not isolated. Nigeria has many such atrocities. Burundi which has had little press has had 240 killings since April and Syria and surrounds has hundreds dying daily. And that says nothing of past atrocities of genocide and mass killings. Evil is a daily presence in the world. My faith tells me so. But I do not doubt that God is there right alongside us. The cries for him to act will be answered when God calls a halt and the judgement books are opened. That is the message of the Advent season we are about to enter.
In the face of the world’s evil the answer is not to doubt God, but rather to use the Advent cry, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’