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'Lord's prayer is offensive only to the gods of consumerism'

By Peter Lynas

Published 24/11/2015

Peter Lynas
Peter Lynas

A 60-second commercial shows a former oil executive, a weight lifter, a child and some refugees uttering 63 words.

These words are instantly recognisable. They are uttered by billions of people around the world every day. They are commonly known as the Lord's Prayer.

The advert has been given a 'U' rating and cleared by the Cinema Advertising Agency. Despite this, Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinema chains, has refused to show the advert as it "carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences".

So where does the risk of upsetting, or offending, lie? Some would argue that, as private companies, these cinemas should be able to do what they like. Commercial companies are not completely free to do as they please. A blanket ban on all religious adverts is likely to discriminate against all religions.

And, of course, the cinemas have to be consistent - any advert mentioning Christmas or Easter would presumably be refused for being offensive. Yet, a raft of advertisements which commercialise the celebration of the birth of Christ seem to have slipped past this policy.

So, if it's not religion, what really is offensive about the Lord's Prayer? In response to the Church of England advertisement, some have complained that they don't go to the cinema to have things they don't want pushed at them. I am obviously going to the wrong cinema - there are 20 minutes of adverts before most movies. These are underpinned by all sorts of messages: individualism, consumerism and materialism.

In a consumer-driven culture, a prayer that says "Give us this day our daily bread" is offensive - not to cinemagoers, but to the advertisers encouraging them to spend more in pursuit of happiness.

In 63 words, the Lord's Prayer checks our greed, calls us to surrender and declares a new boss is in town. So, yes - the advertisement is offensive. The Lord's Prayer is offensive to the gods of consumerism and the corporate powers, but surely it shouldn't be banned.

Peter Lynas is the NI Director of the Evangelical Alliance

Belfast Telegraph

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