A film that shows a young person negotiating the tensions between modern life and traditional belief has reignited the uproar over an advertisement encouraging people to pray.
The movie theaters in the UK that refused the Church of England’s Lord’s Prayer advertisement will show a Pixar short film about a young Hindu boy imagining Hindu deities as superheroes. The Rev Arun Arora, the Church of England’s director of communications, said the decision demonstrated the incoherence of cinemas’ “on-the-hoof policy making”.
The theater chains says that “Sanjay’s Super Team” is included as a short-firm that is meant to be shown alongside the feature film “The Good Dinosaur,” and therefore is not a paid advertisement like the Church of England film. The difference is, apparently, that the theaters pay Disney/Pixar for the right to show the feature and the short, but the CofE pay the theaters to show theirs.
But others, including Rowan Williams, say that the cinema is filled with messages that have to do with faith, values, and ethics, whether the films are paid advertisements or not. So if a short film talking about understanding Hinduism is modern life is okay, why is an even shorter film talking about the Lord’s Prayer in modern life not okay?
Rev Arun Arora, the Church of England’s director of communications, told The Times: “I haven’t seen the film but as someone who grew up watching Hindi films and brought up on Bollywood, I have no problem whatsoever with Sanjay and certainly have no objection to the cinemas showing this film.
“But the fact that they are doing so demonstrates the incoherence of their on-the-hoof policy making. Every film and advertisement conveys a message. And this one seems to convey an obviously pro-religion, in this case pro-Hinduism, one. There is an unfortunate combination of double standards and hypocrisy on display in this decision making process which needs addressing urgently.
“As Rowan Williams wrote recently: ‘Advertising our Christian history is not intruding dangerous propaganda into a neutral and benign space. It is competing with existing propaganda, existing philosophies and ideologies.’
“All we ask is the opportunity to be heard. We remain hopeful that the cinemas will demonstrate the necessary strength of leadership, change their minds and show the justpray.uk film.”
The Wall Street Journal has this interview with Pixar’s Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle, discussing the story behind the creation of the short film.
The adventures of being an established church in a secular culture continue. Stay tuned.