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“Just Pray”–but not in UK cinemas

“Just Pray”–but not in UK cinemas

Screencap from Just Pray video

News outlets reacted with confusion after the announcement that a new advertisement by the Church of England was rejected by UK cinemas. The 56 second ad opens with Archbishop Justin Welby walking down a tree-lined path, with a voiceover of the Lord’s Prayer, before it moves to a montage of a diverse and wide-ranging assortment of people speaking–and singing–the prayer. The people are depicted in prayer in a variety of situations, including visiting cemeteries, riding mass transit, exercising, herding cattle, providing emergency services, singing in choirs, and celebrating the rite of baptism.

The ad:

The Guardian provided three takes on the controversy: the factual news account (from which we sourced this story), an op-ed by Canon Giles Fraser who calls the ban “nonsense on stilts” and an op-ed from noted atheist Richard Dawkins, who supports the Church in this matter and disagrees with the cinemas. Dawkins said anyone offended by this advertisement “deserve(s) to be offended“.

As did many, Dawkins initially responded by stating that this was a matter of freedom of speech, but later corrected his remarks; the cinemas are corporations and not State businesses, so they exercise their own discretion in choosing which ads to play, and government protected speech is not applicable.

Fraser suggests that the rejection of the ad is unseemly ground-work to let the cinemas ban less popular expressions of religious faith (i.e. ads by Muslim groups), noting that rejecting the ad on the grounds that it would possibly cause offense would similarly let them reject other religious speech on similar grounds.

The ‘Just Pray’ spot is an ad announcing a new website by the Church of England, justpray.uk.

Do you think the resulting publicity will put the ad in front of more people than if it had played? We wrote earlier this week on the lack of God in Downton Abbey; why do you think UK media seems leery about portraying religion? What do you think of the ad as an evangelical act?

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Jerald Liko

I think CoE did something rather bright here, borrowing on the campaign model of Donald Trump. You US folks may have noticed that Trump is omnipresent in the news, despite having spent very little on campaign advertising – like or dislike his politics, he’s absolutely mastered the art of gaining free media coverage by stirring up controversy.

CoE has done the same here, and if they did it intentionally, it was a master stroke. Rather than airing a poorly produced commercial right before a spectacularly produced film in exchange for a small fortune, they’ve turned their limited production budget into a bonanza in free media. And they’ve done it in a way that is sure to whip conservative into a tizzy and into church for Advent and Christmas.

Conventional wisdom holds that this is a PR blunder from an out-of-touch group. I’m not so sure it isn’t a brilliant PR campaign from a group that grasps the value of viral media.

Anne Bay

Agreed! Now I know what the C of E video reminded me of: John Cleese (as the Archbishop sorry to say) and the other “players” as the Monty Python imitation group!! I watched the video again, and it is really bad…….. I have learned a lot through my daughter about what good film productions have, and this “ain’t it.” Seriously, with the bishops meeting in January at Lambeth, maybe that is one reason the C of E tried to do this. That will be a very interesting “happening.” Anyway you look at the C of E the Archbishop of Canterbury is in a tough position. Next time, though, Archbishop, have a Hollywood make-up artist fix you up!!!

June Butler

Who conceived the idea to use the poorly executed video as an ad in the cinema? The brouhaha that followed the ban only served to make the Church of England look more ridiculous. That the authorities in the church were “disappointed and bewildered” shows how out of touch they are. When I first watched the video, I was puzzled and wondered if the video and the story might be a spoof, but I soon realized it was all too true, alas.

Leslie Marshall

Regardless ‘where’ we pray….Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. And in everything, give thanks. For this is the will of Christ Jesus in you.

Looking forward to the fruit that will come from all those prayers to God.

Anne Bay

Today is $6.00 day at our local movie theatre. The last thing I want to see when I’m in the theatre having my snack and enjoying the movie experience (which is rare on our income) is this rather strange video. As far as a video, this one is too busy, has way too many shots of people in various places, and has no cohesiveness in story!!! The bottom line though is the movie theatre should not be a place to have advertisements for any religion. If the C of E wants to have an advertisement, I would suggest they contact California State University of Long Beach, Long Beach, California, which has one of the finest fine arts department anywhere. They could be instrumental in the writing, designing, producing and filming a quality video. I would suggest that it be shown on BBC Television, not in the movie theatre. Make it shorter and simpler. But as for me today, I will be enjoying seeing “Peanuts” and relaxing at the movies.

Leonardo Ricardo

Agreed. This CofE Advertisement (advertizement) is a very poorly thought out/directed piece…period. ++Justin is not inspiring (in fact, the reverse is true and he looks like he has a nagging headache).

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