Shuck and Jive

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's on Your Billboard?

If it is a painting of Mary and Joseph in bed, then you have been naughty.

St Matthew-in-the-City Church in Auckland, which erected the billboard, said it had intended to provoke debate.

But the Catholic Church, among others, has condemned it as "inappropriate" and "disrespectful".

Within hours of its unveiling, the billboard had been defaced with brown paint. (Read More)

And a Happy Christmas to All!!


  1. It has reportedly been vandalized again and is now down permanently.

    The comments on the Church web site are endarkening. I do wonder how many new faces showed up in their church service today (they are one day ahead of the USA).

  2. I would probably attend St. Matthew's if I lived there.

    Funny + Provocative = Good Religion

  3. Nothing like good old fashioned Christian intolerance.

  4. Curiously one of the problems of an RC response is their insistence on the perpetual virginity of Mary.

    As a faith statement I would suggest that if Luke and Matthew's stories of the incarnation are true then being impregnated by the Holy Spirit was probably not a sexual act. Of course we don't know how the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary.

    In any case I don't get the defacing of property or the shouting down of people with who one disagrees. I'm for respectful listening and dialogue.

  5. Bob,

    Aside from the billboard and the defacing et al, what do you make of the virgin birth these days? Do you think Jesus did not have a human father? Is it important that he didn't?

    Of all the doctrines, I find that the virgin birth has to rank up there as one the most silly and pointless.

    Here is Matthew Fox's take on it.

    He is speaking about Otto Rank. He says Rank had the only theory of the virgin birth that made any sense:

    Christianity is a goddess religion. It came about at the time of the goddess religions of the first century....the other goddess religions like the religion of Isis was about Isis giving birth to a divine son and then having sex with him.

    The reason the Christians insisted on the virginity of Mary was that this Jewish Divine Son left home, left his mother, and became a Jewish prophet. You can't become a prophet if you hang out with your mother your whole life long. It [virgin birth] is not an anti-sexual thing but it is about not living an incestuous life with your parents. It is about leaving home and growing up, and doing your adult work.

    Of course Sojourner Truth used the Virgin Birth to defend women preaching. She said:

    "Who made Jesus? God and a woman, that's who. A man had nothing to do with it!"

    Other than those interesting interpretations, the Virgin Birth is another superstition we would do well to leave in the attic with the other old treasures.

    That, I think, was the point of the provocative billboard.

  6. I don't get why some people automatically respond to any offense by defacing or destroying whatever caused the offense. Is it immaturity, irrationality or both that makes them behave that way?

  7. Ah, Buffy, the billboard ITSELF is immature!

    And OF COURSE it it offensive John! Thats why you are excited about it.

    Don't jive me, bro! Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

  8. Winston,

    I think there is a qualitative (not to mention legal) difference between putting up an offensive billboard and defacing someone's property.

    There are many offensive things I have to see on my way to work everyday, but I don't throw paint on them.

    It is an act of violence.

    As regards to the topic, when people no longer believe something to be true then it either becomes a superstition or art.

    I find it offensive that Christians turn art into superstition.

    It is one thing to sing, "round yon virgin, mother and child" and quite another to insist that this virgin birth occurred in history and so on and so forth.

    Art vs. superstition.

    If some Christians want to insist on holding on to their superstitions when more and more people are finding them not only unconvincing but boorish, they shouldn't be surprised when they find themselves the butt of a joke or two.

  9. There was a billboard here in Philly that I found at least distasteful. A jeweler had ad with a photo of a woman holding up just her ring finger and insisting it was time for her to get a ring. It looked like she was giving all passersby the bird. I found it offensive so I thought of a couple of possibilities:

    1. Suing the Jewelry company. That's a very American thing to do and I could use the $10,000,000.00

    2. Painting a stick figure of a guy, a ring on the woman's finger and a chain coming from the ring to the guy's neck.

    I did nothing and in a few months the company moved on to a new campaign. But it was fun to dream.

    By the way I DO believe the virgin birth happened. But in history? That depends on what you mean by history. I can affirm it is an event that happened. But outside of two gospels (which are, after all theological documents) there is no evidence for the event. As a Christian I can affirm it happened. I will admit that the historical evidence for it is slim.

  10. Oh, and the billboards for "Gentlemen's Clubs I find offensive too. I figure anyone who goes into a strip joint by whatever name is not a gentleman.

  11. Agreed, Bob, regarding billboards.

    Actually, I didn't find it offensive, I found it funny. I know it was an advertisement for a church that pushes boundaries of all kinds (including taste I suppose).

    The wrong act I see here is the defacing of the property. This is where I think human beings need to stand together--to speak against that.

    Or maybe we ought to have a larger conversation--is the defacing of someone else's property ever OK, and second are there billboards even on private property that the larger community will not allow?

    Regarding virgin birth and history:

    I would say the story(ies) of the virgin birth is within history--created by human beings at some point in time. I am less inclined to think that it or any of the legends, mythologies, etc. we dream up have a reality outside of it.

    On the other hand, Jung, I suppose would say these symbols point to a collective unconscious which is some kind of reality, I think. In this sense, the gods and their myths are projections of our inner psyches.

    Here I am rambling on philosophically. Something that Christmas often inspires me to do!

  12. I don't find the billboard in your area offensive. Not very objective about the Annunciation stories from Matthew and Luke but not offensive.

    I think defacing billboards is usually wrong. Notice I didn't paint the stick character guy with a leash around his neck on the billboard. Or sue the company for offending me.

    I think there are billboards that go beyond acceptable speech. The same law should be applied that Oliver Wendell Holmes applied way back: if the speech is like shouting fire in a packed theater then it isn't acceptable. An example: "Kill the Blacks."

    On the other hand I think a lot of what people find offensive is what we all should put up with living in a free speech society. I don't really want to see a billboard that says "F*** you and the horse you rode in on" (a traditional Irish way to start a fight in a bar) but I think someone should have the right to say it, wear it on their t shirt and put it on a bulletin board.

    As long as I get to say what I have to say too.

  13. This billboard was in New Zealand.

    This billboard is a dig on the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity, meaning she and poor Joseph never had sex.

    This would be a doctrine common to this congregation's tradition.

    That is why the billboard is funny. Poor Joseph could never measure up.

    The Protestant view I suppose is that she was a virgin before Jesus was born then had nookie with Joe afterward.

    All of it is more than a tad silly.

  14. Got my More Light Presbyterians update in the mail today and discovered yet another interpretation of how the Virgin Birth can be used for the cause of social justice.

    A sign at a marriage equality rally:

    "Jesus had 2 dads and he turned out OK"

  15. I wonder if the legend of the Virgin Birth isn't the early church's way of "cleaning up" after all this Adam and Eve incest stuff.

    Just a heathen's thoughts.

  16. This billboard reminds me of a Ron English piece:
    Let's get drunk and Kill God.
    The artist was almost assaulted after it was put up.

  17. That is a good poster, and is likely what happened and happens.