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Poster depicts a wee Jesus for Christmas

07 September 2012

THE ecumenical charity ChurchAds.net launched its Christmas advertising campaign this week. A poster portrays the infant Jesus as a child's doll, next to the slogan: "Godbaby. He cries. He wees. He saves the world."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that the image "will surprise some and disturb others, which is exactly what the real Jesus did. And it forces us beyond the tinsel to the human reality of God among us."

The poster is the latest in the campaign "Christmas Starts with Christ", which has been running for four years. It is supported by Premier Christian Media and the Jerusalem Trust. Last year, it recast the nativity scene, and portrayed "trendy twenty-somethings" dressed in designer clothes, offering luxury gifts at the crib (News, 9 September 2011).

A ChurchAds.net trustee, Mike Elms, said that the campaign "places a Christ-focused message at the heart of the seasonal consumerism: on shopping-centre posters; on commercial radio; in the pages of our daily newspapers. It's a striking, contemporary, and very simple way of communicating the nativity message that Christ, fully divine and fully human, came to us for our salvation."

ChurchAds.net is "asking individuals and churches to donate to a national Christmas advertising fund to finance posters in places such as bus stops, and to buy airtime for specially commissioned radio ads, and space in national and regional newspapers.

The executive director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Mark Greene, said that the poster "simultaneously undermines two corrosive, contemporary beliefs: Jesus is not just a mythic baby to coo at, he is God; and his birth isn't primarily a marketing trigger for buying toys and gifts, it's a moment to remember how desperately we need God."

The poster brought differing reactions from advertising professionals. The Director General of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Paul Bainsfair, said: "The first rule of advertising is to get noticed. . . It's a fresh idea that will remind everyone about the story at the heart of Christmas."

But Tom Bazeley, of the London agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine, said that it "feels like a rather confused attempt to be culturally relevant". Jacob Denno, of Fold7, said: "We're all for religious iconography and the Church updating its image, but this may be a little wayward, to say the least."

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