The plan was to show the film before the Christmas screens of the new Star Wars film, as a way to encourage people to think about prayer and to pray. The commercial points to Just Pray.uk.
But the powers that be - the distributors have declared that the Lord's Prayer is unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.
And so, as expected, indignation from the press, from the Archbishop, from all sorts of people. Debate begin about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.
Atheist, Richard Dawkins, says it should be shown, saying,
“I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, said he was:
“flabbergasted that anyone would find this prayer offensive to anybody, including people of no particular religious belief.”Ironically, the commercial was scheduled to be screened before the new Star Wars film – which has spawned its own religion with 177,000 claiming Jedi to be their religion in the 2011 British Census.
But maybe there is something else here...
I am not a big fan of enforced religion and prayer. I think it often, as Dawkins says, trivializes prayer and faith. It makes it an add on, something optional, something of little consequence: "would you like a heated steering wheel in your new car?"
When you look at and begin to pray the Lord's prayer (and it is really our prayer as his followers) it is a powerful prayer worthy of being banned by the demigods of consumer commerce.
Our Father in heaven
Holy is your name
May your kingdom come soon
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us today the food we need
And forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us
And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.74 words (in the above version).
It takes less than a minute to say it. (It takes a lifetime to pray it.)
Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.
No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.