Ok so it’s late. I should be asleep right now, it’s been a long weekend but I have so many thoughts going round my mind that I have to write…
Last week I wrote about prayer via Twitter in Hashtag Prayers. I was musing on how people who wouldn’t label themselves as ‘religious’ will still turn to simple prayer in times of need. It is interesting then today that news has broken of a new and simple ad from the CofE which shows people saying the Lord’s prayer, that has been banned from UK cinemas as it ‘might cause offence’.
“My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
I’ve just had a lengthy debate on Twitter about it myself, and as always I turn to the blog to express my frustration so here’s a few things just to think about based on the comments people have made so far…
- Freedom of Speech. Is this a matter of curtailing our free speech? Well actually not as far as the cinema is concerned. Their reason for ‘banning’ the ad was that it carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences. Well that’s what they say but I feel sure they don’t give quite so much concern towards other ads. I’m sure we can all think of things we’ve seen at the movies that may not be 100% appropriate to the audience. Especially as this ad was given a ‘U’ rating by the Cinema Advertising Authority and the British Board of Film Classification, the lowest rating there is.
- We are a Christian Country. Well again, I’m not sure we can officially claim that any more, can we? After all stats show the number of Christians attending church is regularly declining, right? However… we still have a national church which plays an important role in the life of the country in many ways, but even if we just look at the local church, be it in weddings, funerals, times of need and difficulty, still, people turn to the church in their thousands. It is part of our identity in Britain. In fact it’s amazing when churches are to be closed or things changed, people come out of the woodwork in their support, they speak out in support of their local church.
- This is an ad about prayer, not about the church or religion as some have said. Look let’s not beat about the bush, of course it’s a Christian ad, it’s from the Church of England, but it is a focus on prayer to go with their new initiative ‘Just Pray’. As I said in last weeks post, many people turn to prayer, turn to God in time of need when they otherwise wouldn’t. I am very comfortable with my faith and I will always offer to pray with people in need. Few are the occasions where people say no. Most, even those who ardently profess no faith, are touched by the offer and are grateful for the input when often nothing else can be done.
- The Lord’s Prayer is offensive (or could be). Ok so let’s just think about this. This is a prayer that many many people outside the church know. It may have been learned in school, or even in places of work, said at civic occasions, national events and more. It is said with affection, with honour, with pride and with emotion, by many of no faith and one. It has brought comfort to those in times of need, when nothing else can be done, in times of trial or grief, people can be embraced with it, encouraged. Those with dementia will join in with the familiar words, recognising something of their life now so confused. Those suffering with ill health receive a visit from a Chaplain or Vicar, they listen as words of liturgy are spoken over them and then they hear the familiar words they have heard before, joining in with the lines they remember. A family is dealing with the grief of a loved one, they don’t want a ‘religious service’ but they do want the Lords Prayer, ‘because she believed in something’. This is so much more than ‘just a prayer’.
- Prayer is a waste of time. Well I beg to differ, but then I would, of course. As previously mentioned, for so many it is a thing of great comfort. Is it so harmful to remind people of that? Sometimes I wonder what on earth is happening to our world. Wars, people blowing themselves up with the express intent of killing as may as possible, governments cutting benefits that enable people to live, to stay alive. We may rightly ask where is the God of compassion and love? But for now, what can we do when we can do nothing? We can at the very least, pray. Anyone can. It requires no skill or theological education, we can just speak to the Lord. Is it so bad to just give people a gentle reminder of that very fact?
Lastly I point you to a post by Stephen Croft, Bishop of Sheffield who highlights some amazing truths in the prayer…