US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Billboard of Mary and Joseph in bed isn't thought provoking; it's a confusing mess.

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

According to the BBC News, St Matthew-in-the-City Church in Auckland, New Zealand has erected what was supposed to be a thought-provoking billboard that would "lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story." that's what the church vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy told the New Zealand Press Association.  This "lampooning," Cardy said, was intended to "get people to think more about what Christmas is all about."

I am all for challenging the faithful with provocative images, still or moving. Krysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog and the Tom Tykwer-directed film Heaven (actually written by Kieslowski and one of my favorite films) are films that take Christian ideas that have become somewhat rote and re-imagine them in ways that force us into meaningful reflection.

But this, a painting of Joseph and Mary in bed, isn't thought provoking. It doesn't ask us to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, as is purpoted. If it asks anything at all it's about the perpetual viriginity of Mary. Which is not the meaning of Christmas. And rather get at the centrality of the Christmas message, it's just spurned a lot of unhealthy, confusing debate.

Furthermore, the painting isn't even good. 

Frankly, I'm inclined to agree that Bob Dylan's Christmas album is a more thought-provoking reflection on the mystery of Christmas than this. And I hate that album. 

But, all that being said, defacing an image with brown paint because you don't like it is akin to spitting out the brussel sprouts your mother worked so hard to put on the table. While the painting was a well-intentioned, but bad idea (as is serving children brussel sprouts), such a reaction is childish and ornery.