St. Matthews-in-the-City Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, uses extremely-controversial tactics in its advertisements. Every December, the house of worship posts a billboard — one that is so over-the-top and offensive that it attracts international attention. Last year, Jesus’ mother, Mary, was shown gazing at a positive pregnancy test. And now, the most recent ad takes edginess to a new level, as it questions Jesus’ sexuality and seeks to spark discussion.
The billboard depicts baby Jesus with a rainbow halo over his head and the words, “It’s Christmas. Time for Jesus to Come Out.” Clearly alluding to the Christian savior’s sexuality, the ad is intentionally controversial, while apparently seeking to incite a debate surrounding homosexuality.
“This year we invited discussion and debate on the sexual orientation of Jesus,” St. Matthew’s clergy Rev. Glynn Cardy and Rev. Clay Nelson said in a statement published on the church’s web site.
The ad has been placed outside of the house of worship, where it is certainly sparking conversation. While some Christians will surely be outraged by the message being conveyed, Nelson notes that some historians have attempted to deeply explore Jesus’ sexuality.
Rather than embracing the notion that the savior was definitively gay, the faith leader seemed to provide a conflicting statement when he noted that Jesus’ sexuality is of little importance.
“Maybe gay, maybe not. Does it matter?,” he said.
This statement is somewhat odd, especially after the preachers said that they were inviting discussion and debate on the matter.
As for New Zealand’s debate over same-sex unions, Cardy added that Christ’s teachings do not delve into the same-sex attraction debate, but that the savior “always supported the marginalized in society.”
But sparking a discussion over gay marriage and homosexuality isn’t the only reason St. Matthews-in-the-City Church is pushing the billboard’s controversial message. The church notes that last year’s image brought the church massive exposure on Facebook and over 30,000 visits to the church’s web site. Clearly, publicity for the church is a key motivating factor.
The church’s 2009 billboard was arguably more offensive, as it featured an image of Mary and Joseph in bed together. The caption under it read, “Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow.”