Britain woke up this morning to the news that the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from cinemas.
The Church of England has produced a sixty second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on… The ad is to promote a new website, Just Pray.uk. The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new Star Wars film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray. What could be more simple?
The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.
Cue indignation from the press, fury from the Archbishop (according to the Mail anyway) debates about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.
But wait just a moment. Suppose the cinema chains got this one right?
I disagree with their decision and I disagree with the reasons they have given. I hope it’s reversed. I don’t believe the film will offend or upset audiences, in the way they mean, and I don’t believe it creates a new precedent.
But from the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, from the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age, there are very good reasons indeed to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and from culture and from public life.
This is a prayer said by billions of people every day in every language on the planet. In every single moment in time, someone is praying these words. They are the first words of prayer we learn as children and the last words we say at the moment of death.
The Lord’s Prayer is powerful for a reason. These words shape lives and families and communities and whole societies.
There are real reasons why the Lord’s Prayer has been banned by the demigods of consumer culture, in the boardrooms of the cinema chains. Here are seven, one for every line.
By Bishop Steven Croft at sheffield.anglican.org.