You may have heard by now that the Church of England was due to put an advert encouraging people to pray on cinema screens during the ad reels in the run up to the Christmas season. It came out in the press that the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the major cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, refused to show the advert because it believed it would risk upsetting or offending audiences. You can read the full BBC article on the coverage of this story here.

In the wake of this decision, many have been wondering exactly what the problem is. After all:

  1. Discussions have been ongoing regarding this advert for a long time and the pull out is very last minute.
  2. The advert passed other checks and was confirmed suitable for a universal audience without any cutting or editing needed.
  3. Other adverts such as ones advertising the Alpha Course have been shown in cinemas up to now.

Which leads me to believe that this “policy” is a very recent one, or that it’s been made up to justify the situation.  The original video is here for you to view:

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So then, what does this move of banning the Lord’s prayer tell us about society? I think it tells us a few things:

  1. We’re not who some claim us to be. By that I mean that we’re not inclusive, we’re not tolerant, we’re not liberalised. In stead, we’re biased, selectively bigoted, and discriminate.
  2. We have more of a political and religious/areligious agenda than we let on. A decision to ban the Lord’s Prayer from being screened in cinemas makes a religious and political statement as much as, if not more so, than simply allowing the ad to screen.
  3. We’re wrapped in cotton wool for fear of hearing something we might not like or agree with. How does censoring a religious (or any) advert lead to better understanding, to dialogue, or mutual acceptance of the way things are? OK – it’s not the job of the cinemas to necessarily educate people on various religious beliefs, but that only makes the case stronger for them to allow the advert to screen.
  4. We actually do want to talk about faith, religion and the Lord’s Prayer. What the ban has done is ignite a huge discussion on the Lord’s Prayer and the story behind the ban on social media. The video has been shared thousands of times already, which makes me wonder whether people are that offended or upset by a bunch of individuals praying the Lord’s Prayer, which is still taught to all school children today.

We cannot have our cake and eat it. We see things on the TV and in the media that we don’t agree with all the time, whether it’s the use of money, sexual ethics, politics, the age rating of films in the cinema… this list goes on and on. This ban shows that actually, there is very little difference between being a super conservative fundamentalist and a super liberal pluralist. They’re both as narrow minded, intolerant and bigoted as each other. We are a society that swings from one end of the pendulum to the other in attempts to balance out actions and opinions we’ve held in the past which we deem to be unsuitable in today’s climate. And this violent rocking back and forth between extreme values only leads to discrimination, suffering and confusion.

Whilst an advert calling us all to think about prayer has been banned from being shown in cinema ad reels,  #PrayForParis has been used millions of times over the internet to bring unity, hope and comfort to those in distress, and prayer vigils being held in town squares and commercial places to bring communities together.

Now what does that say?