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A God Complex

Is it right to ban a Christian advert that includes the Lord's Prayer?

Kyus Agu-Lionel 

Sub Editor of Naked Politics 

A ‘God complex’ is “an unshakable belief characterised by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility.” To say that The Daily Mail suffers from this in spades would be a gross understatement. I was therefore slightly surprised to realise that I agreed with at least part of their sensationalist headline today.

As you’ve all probably heard, Digital Cinema Media, which handles most cinema advertising in the UK, has declined to screen an advert depicting people reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Inevitably, the Daily Mail/Britain First crowd (who don’t live their lives according to the Bible, don’t go to church and don’t think about God in their daily lives) have jumped on this, shouting angrily about how it should be shown because England is a “Christian country”.

In a YouGov survey in 2011, only 53% of people in England and Wales identified as Christian, and only 32% of those people had been to church in the last year. In addition to this, 65% of the people who said that they had a religion also said that they weren’t religious, suggesting that people will tick the ‘Christian’ box because their family have always called themselves that. When it comes down to it, they’re not actually believers at all.

As a comfortably agnostic person who is also an avid student of history, I am not a fan of religion. Digital Cinema Media said that it has “a policy not to run advertising connected to personal beliefs, specifically those related to politics or religion.” This seems fair enough: if the Church of England can advertise then where will it end? Will we be subjected to religious lecturing every time we pop in to see the latest Marvel film?

But at the same time, I watched the advert expecting the sort of nonsense that you see crazy people on Woolwich High Street shouting. However, what I saw was an innocuous and sort of sweet video of people saying the Lord’s Prayer. It doesn’t say “Christianity is better than everything else”. It doesn’t preach, it isn’t forcing God down anybody’s throat, and it’s not broadcasting the usual rubbish that we’re used to hearing from this demographic. It’s just a depiction of a diverse group of people from a range of backgrounds reciting a prayer.

I usually dislike it when people harangue on religion, or even talk about it at too much length, as I believe that faith should be personal and I simply don’t care to hear it. But this advert doesn’t do that.

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My family and a lot of my friends are Christian and I am not offended by evidence of somebody having a religion. I would be offended if they used their religion to judge other people or to tell me how I should live. These people (if they exist) who would be upset at seeing evidence such as this – simply of somebody having a religion – would be missing the point of the supposedly free and open society that we live in. We should be able to see people who are different from us, and rejoice in it. It would be evidence of a God complex indeed if we were so smug and confident in our own supremacy that we cannot be presented with an image of people who are not the same as us without being ‘offended’ by it.

So what’s going on here? The conspiracy theorist in me would whisper that the people at Digital Cinema Media are thinking along the lines of “if we let Christians advertise, then we’ll have to let the Muslims advertise too – God forbid!” It’s all too imaginable considering this country’s Islamophobic climate at the moment. But of course I have no proof for it, and therefore will leave this complex issue here.

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