Britain woke up this morning to the news that the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from cinemas.

The Church of England has produced a sixty second commercial.  The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on.  It’s a beautiful film, Certificate U. The ad is to promote a new website, Just Pray.uk.  The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new Star Wars film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray.  What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening.  They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.

Cue indignation from the press, fury from the Archbishop (according to the Mail anyway) debates about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.

But wait just a moment.  Suppose the cinema chains got this one right?

I disagree with their decision and I disagree with the reasons they have given.  I hope it’s reversed.  I don’t believe the film will offend or upset audiences, in the way they mean, and I don’t believe it creates a new precedent.

But from the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, from the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age, there are very good reasons indeed to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and from culture and from public life.

This is a prayer said by billions of people every day in every language on the planet.  In every single moment in time, someone is praying these words.  They are the first words of prayer we learn as children and the last words we say at the moment of death.

The Lord’s Prayer is powerful for a reason.  These words shape lives and families and communities and whole societies.

There are real reasons why the Lord’s Prayer has been banned by the demigods of consumer culture, in the boardrooms of the cinema chains.  Here are seven, one for every line.

First, this prayer gives to those who pray it an identity and a place in the world and a countercultural community.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”.  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time.  It opposes the myth that our lives do not matter.  It opposes the myth of fragmented humanity.

We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human beings who are therefore our sisters and brothers.  Only someone who has found this new identity can stand against the advertising culture which night and day seduces us to define who we are by what we spend.

Second this prayer gives us the courage to live in an imperfect world.  “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish his kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.

Third, and most powerfully, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to live with just enough.  This is the most dangerous reason why it cannot be shown with the adverts at the cinema.  It teaches us not to want more.  It teaches contentment, the most subversive virtue of them all.

“Give us this day our daily bread”.  This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer only for what we need.  Every other advert in the cinema is there to encourage us to spend money in pursuit of happiness.  This one restrains our greed.

Fourth, the Lord’s Prayer teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  There is a way to deal with the rubbish in our lives.  “Forgive us our sins”.

Consumer culture holds before us the image of perfection.  We cannot be happy until we look like this person, live like that one.  Each image is a lie.

The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  The Lord’s Prayer offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily. The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.  Grace subverts the whole culture of advertising.

Fifth the Lord’s Prayer offers a way of reconciliation.  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  We are not meant to feud or live in hostility or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.  That reconciliation happens without expensive presents, without going into debt, without credit.  People are not made happy by more things, another consumer lie.  The greatest happiness comes from relationships.  The key to great relationships is reconciliation and forgiveness.

Sixth, the Lord’s Prayer builds resilience in the human spirit.  When you say this prayer each day you are prepared for the bad days.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 

When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale, a saccharine creation of film makers where every story has a happy ending.

We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where we are tested, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the midst of the most challenging moments of our lives.  Faith is for the deep valleys as much as the green pastures.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.

And seventh the Lord’s Prayer tells us how the story ends, how this life is to be lived and lived well.  “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen”.

The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  Our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Life is to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

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.

+Steven

Note:

This post is based on a sermon given in Peterhouse, Cambridge on Sunday 22 November.

To view the Lord’s Prayer film go to: https://youtu.be/vlUXh4mx4gI

To view the Just Prayer website go to: justpray.uk?

For the Pilgrim Course on the Lord’s Prayer see: http://www.pilgrimcourse.org/

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A Muslim
A Muslim
5 years ago

Sir/Madam. The real struggle is between those that have no faith and those that have. I grew up learning the learning the Lord’s prayer when it used to be recited in morning assembly. To this day whenever i hear it, it provides comfort and brings a smile to my face as it reaffirms our connection to God. Don’t be disheartened and above all don’t give up.

Abaye Joy
Abaye Joy
5 years ago

lots of error has entered the Church, we are really in the end times Only God may help us In this part of the world occult have taken over the church of the Lord and the strange men are manipulating the same souls that Christ died to SeT free

Abbey
Abbey
5 years ago

Wow, I think this is a really eloquent read. I find it very hopeful. Thank you, I wouldn’t have thought of that perspective but it’s an interesting one to hear. Thank you for taking the time to sit down, think through, feel and share your thoughts.

Adrian Alker
Adrian Alker
5 years ago

Totally agree with you Stephen re the Lords Prayer but why does the CofE see films full of war and violence, no matter how popular, as a multi generational cultural event. Far better to be counter cultural and actually begin to critique our love of filmed violence , seen as entertainment, not least when Star Wars is launched a week before we welcome the birth of the Prince of Peace. Too timid C of E!

Adrienne
Adrienne
5 years ago

Wow, very self centred. The Lord’s Prayer may have been the first thing you learned as a child but not everyone’s a Christian. I’ll bet 2/3 of the planet didn’t learn it. I’ll also bet if it was a film about a muslims or satanists or being an atheist it would create an outcry.

Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook
5 years ago

There is nothing wrong with the Lords prayer. Saying it can’t be shown due to offending others is like saying non smokers will be offended by ads about smoking. We are a Christian country we accept to nave a diverse range of adverts/programs but there is an outcry when we want to have our home countries culture due to fear of offending! Live in peace accept all, war begins small by non acceptance, I don’t care what sex, sexual it, colour or creed…….. Love each other live in peace!

Albert
Albert
5 years ago

One just wonders just who are the people we are offending. So much for freedom of speech. This is a Christian country!

Alice Ridgley
Alice Ridgley
5 years ago

Gosh, what a dilemma. Stephen Crofts blog is, I find, extremely enlightening and an interesting view of the reasons for the ban. I think that he may have a point. Having said that, we live in such a diverse society now; at the moment emotions are charged. As is typical of human nature, in the light of the refugee crisis, the Paris massacre, the responses there to result in knee jerk emotional,rather than measured responses. The contributor mindyourownbusiness also has a valid point. When we have found something that we feel is vital to survival and contentment we naturally want… Read more »

Amanda Cartwright
Amanda Cartwright
5 years ago

Thank you for these wise words.

An athiest
An athiest
5 years ago

For a different view, ask an athiest! I’m not in the slightest offended by this. I know and like people of all faiths. However if I want to pray (I don’t, because it doesn’t actually do anything external to the person themselves) I will find somewhere to do that. A cinema isn’t the place to be promoting your church or prayer. Be respectful of the fact that I have no desire to be involved. Do what you like in church but don’t bring it to me. Ps I was amused by the Christian above using the rant go back home.… Read more »

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
5 years ago

An inspired contribution ~ Thankyou

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
5 years ago

Wow! Look at all these comments (some of which, INMHO are not very clever) ! Not sure it matters whether this ad gets aired in a cinema or not. The exposure this has had has evoked a wave of considered response in any case. Proving the maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well done Bish(and Justin) for helping to stir opinion. About time the Church was in the thick of it. !!

Andy Smith
Andy Smith
5 years ago

Indeed Rose it is perfectly possible to lead loving, compassionate and generous lives without depending on agreeing that God exists. Nothing in the ad suggest otherwise. But many people of all kinds do pray to God without insisting that anyone else does and that is all the ad was showing. Perhaps those people are mistaken but theyre not lying.

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

I was brought up in a Christian country that held Christian beliefs….and that foundation should not be removed. You don’t have to believe if you don’t want to. There is so much antagonism in this country! We are all unique and therefore we all have different views on whether we follow the Christian faith or not …it really IS down to choice. However, why are so many people offended by the Lord’s Prayer? I am reading ‘forced, offended, lies, deceit!’ Please explain. I have a mixture of friends of many different belief genre’s and I do not knock one of… Read more »

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

For Sean… I so admire your comment. It just goes to show that there are people out there that, although embrace a different viewpoint/faith/or no faith can still find beauty in the Lord’s prayer. We could all learn from this very wise comment and take it on board, in a world that offers very little in hope, peace or love for one another whatever our beliefs. Instead of antagonism this gentleman has shown huge respect! Thank you Sean.

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

This prayer is flawless. It is the perfect example of how we are to pray. It has stood the test of time and it always will. I think having it play in the theater is a beautiful gesture. I would love that for AMERICA! What a nice way to start the Christmas season.

Ann Weir
Ann Weir
5 years ago

This is such an encouraging piece about the Lord’s Prayer. People around the globe are being persecuted, beheaded and even crucified for their belief in Jesus. It is not surprising that our secular society can’t sanction the prayer He taught us to say. They have worked so hard to remove Him from our lives. But God will not be mocked. His Word tells us that He will overcome, has overcome by the death of Jesus and will reign forever!

Annon
Annon
5 years ago

What is the matter with the world today! We back away from expressing our views on how WE want to live life, because we MIGHT offend someone!! If we all lived like this we’d never leave the house as we would offend someone with the way we’re dressed. These bosses need to take a serious look at their consciences, because some of the greatest changes came about because we challenged the opposition! Come on bosses, GROW SOME BALLS AND DO SOMETHING TO MAKE A STATEMENT!, like we’re not going to change our lives or faiths because some people are too… Read more »

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

England is supposedly a Christian country and if you go to countries that practise religion, you either work with what they do or leave and you can be arrested even showing arms or legs in some countries due to their religious practises so England should have some backbone just as the other countries do with their beliefs so the question is really whether England is a Christian country? Do they pick the bits which suits them? Should people be able to bring religion to England and be offended by what the country does and have England twist and bend to… Read more »

Ashley
Ashley
4 years ago

Such a shame that nowadays we are concerned with offending people with Christianity when we should be able to rejoice in Gods light.

Barb
Barb
5 years ago

I am neither a Christian nor a citizen of the UK, but I found the decision to ban this ad bizarre.

Barbara Burch
Barbara Burch
5 years ago

Whatever our view as to this film being screened or not, praise God,in His sovereign power He is and will use the publicity for His glory!

Barry Tebb
Barry Tebb
5 years ago

I was baffled by this until I read the Bishop’s comments.I agree with every word he says.Sadly the Golden Calf,Mammon,call it what you will is the unspoken false faith of this increasingly secular country.Recently I read a theology book by a German Cardinal-famous for his ecumenical beliefs-he reefuses to visit the UK because of the aggressive atheism so rampant here.

Ben
Ben
5 years ago

The best reason is that Jesus gave the prayer as an example of what to pray when alone, not as a corporate act.

Beryl
Beryl
5 years ago

The Lord’s Prayer has been a comfort to me many times and it’s helped me to reach out to others when they have needs as the words cover us and give comfort strength and hope in a world that is changing around us we know that we can trust God to be unchanging and the words are so beautiful they uplift us and encourage us .

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

All the reasons mentioned above are exactly why we need things like the Lord’s Prayer to be out there in secular culture… It’s not meant for the religious, it’s meant to transform culture, how may it do that if Its not out there? If it’s kept just for Christians? I think it would be great to show this across uk cinemas, where many people can reflect upon its deep truths. People can change, culture can change, if we retreat upon the grounds that the Lord’s Prayer is too holy ( which is what his reasoning amounts to) then I suggest… Read more »

Billy
Billy
5 years ago

Why do religions have hierarchies if they believe everyone is equal?

BM
BM
5 years ago

With every respect to Bishop Croft for writing this, may I request for completeness and for the benefit of anyone reading this that there is mention made of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. It is only because of his perfect life and sacrifice in our place to be the propitiation for our sins that anyone who repents and believes in him will have their sins forgiven and eternal life in heaven. He gave us the great commission to preach this good news to the world. Incomplete it does not give the truth about sin and forgiveness or why Jesus… Read more »

Bob S Australia
Bob S Australia
5 years ago

If I get to the end of my life and find that the christian way of life has been based on a myth at least I will know that I did all I could in sharing love, support and friendship with all that I met, on the other hand if you believe Christianity is a myth and you get to the end of your life and you find the Christians have it right you are going to be very disappointed and sorry. I believe as the prayer starts Our Father who art in heaven.

Brian Evans Ogden
Brian Evans Ogden
5 years ago

Thank you very much for these comments, they are inspired and sincere. The film is also very moving and should be shared as much as possible. God’s Blessings to all and peace atChristmastide.

Bruce Jenner
Bruce Jenner
5 years ago

For almost 20 centuries wherever this prayer has been prayed in sincerity there has been Christian people showing love, compassion, friendship and care even to the point of giving their lives for others. How we need to live by words like that !

Bryan@Toronto
Bryan@Toronto
5 years ago

Thank you for this. It’s beautiful!

Camper
Camper
5 years ago

I completely agree that this commercial should not be run ahead of movies in cinema. However, I disagree with your rationale. Your point seems to revolve around the assumption that people have to dwell in a particular mindset and utilize the prayer as a devotional, confirmation act of unity in purpose. My interpretation of your piece leads me to believe you think the prayer should only be said by those willing to, or spiritually up to, accepting the will of God. While I concede the sentiment and believe it’s a fair point, I think you’re missing the larger issue. Prayer… Read more »

Camper
Camper
5 years ago

@Elyna- So, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that if I plunked down $10 to see a Star Wars film and this commercial came on, I should just leave? Am I not entitled to see the movie I paid to see? If you paid to go see the movie and the cinema allowed a commercial encouraging everyone to proclaim devotion to Allah or join Isis, would you sit quietly? Or, would you leave, as you direct people to do here, and forego the entertainment you paid for? Further, I suspect you’d next say that people can leave and get… Read more »

Canon Ian Draffan
Canon Ian Draffan
5 years ago

Thank you for a brilliant response to the banning. There is hope and peace in Gods world and the Lord’s Prayer affirms this certainty

Carol Daley
Carol Daley
5 years ago

Well said.

Carol Rashid
Carol Rashid
5 years ago

The gift of the Lord’s Prayer is one of uniting in love. Sadly until God’s perfect timing, not every ear can hear to listen; not every eye has sight to witness; not ever mouth has the voice to speak. The call to prayer for the lost is advertising love in action not as a reaction! Hearts are stirring for and against advertising the beauty the words, however, The Lord’s Prayer remains unshakeable and will live on in the hearts and voices of millions now and forever and in generations to come because it is rooted in love ??

Carol Rashid
Carol Rashid
5 years ago

The call to prayer is rooted in love, How we share with one another. Eternal reconciliation to God. Love and forgiveness is the key, Ordinary people in communion; Releasing oppression to be free. Devotional witness from the heart; ‘ Sharing together from far apart. Prayerful humble submission, Reconciliation through love. Agapé all embracing, Yearning to find the lost; Eternity on the horizon loves cost. Robust shepherds caring & sharing.

Carol Tyler
Carol Tyler
5 years ago

Why are people so AFRAID of these words. England is REPORTED to be a CHRISTIAN country. The Nativity plays at Christmas in many schools have been stopped, we have been told that we should take the CHRIST out of CHRISTmas. WHY! I’m glad that at LAST the CHRISTIANS are speaking up. Long may it last. After all we do believe what the BIBLE teaches ,DONT WE?

Carole Lewis
Carole Lewis
5 years ago

the ban has probably done good…got a lot more eople talking and thinking about it!

Carolina,
Carolina,
5 years ago

I’m thankful I’m a Christian, I’m thankful there are good Godly men who love God and mankind. The Lord bless you Bishop Croft.

Caroline Baynes
Caroline Baynes
5 years ago

Well said, Steven Croft. So many adverts are blasted at us on our screens, here is a gentle thoughtful one. It won’t alienate anyone. Christ is not mentioned. It could be prayed by anybody. It contains good sense. Did you notice how many different races were praying the prayer, in the advert? Did you know that this prayer brings comfort to millions who can’t ever get to church because their relations won’t let them, or they are in prison for their faith, or they are on a refugee journey? (some of them built a tent church at Calais!) Live and… Read more »

Caroline
Caroline
5 years ago

absolutely perfect. I’ve just read this aloud to my 17 year old son. Such a huge blessing and just at the right time. Thank you.

Carolyn
Carolyn
5 years ago

What a really good post! As a born again Christian since December 10 1990, prayer has been an important part of my life! I have seen hundreds of my prayers being answered! The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer for any person not knowing how to pray! Jesus said ‘pray for your enemies’ a difficult thing to do, but a necessary thing. The apostle Paul tells all believers to ‘pray without ceasing’ why? As James says – ‘the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’. Prayer is the powerhouse of the Church, it is our secret weapon. We… Read more »

Catherine Fitzgerald
Catherine Fitzgerald
5 years ago

I’m sorry, but when is dictating going to stop, we can’t mention God at school, we can’t mention God at work, we can’t mention God when were are out socially in case we offend someone, what about offending me, it offends me deeply when I can’t speak openly about my God, my Lord and Saviour, seriously we need to cop on and stop this ridiculous snub before it gets out of hand altogether.

Cathy bond
Cathy bond
5 years ago

Excellent comments made.

Cathy Leathley
Cathy Leathley
5 years ago

Amen to this response to the culture of this age. I encourage the debate around this prayer, and actually the Lord is showing how banning His word creates more of an opportunity to discuss the details. ,!!,

Chris McMahon
Chris McMahon
5 years ago

Like Rosemary, I do not believe in God or heaven, but I see no reason to be offended by words that give comfort to many. And if it’s a lie, it’s a lot better than the lie that owning more stuff will make you happy, which most adverts seem to be saying.

Chris Meunier
Chris Meunier
5 years ago

Dear Peter (at 11:18 am today) I understand why you have taken offence. Advertising, by its very nature either draws you in or leaves you feeling alienated. I’m sure Jesus didn’t want his prayer to be anything other than totally inclusive – counting every human as a ‘child of God’. I agree with the Bishop that each line has power to change and enrich our lives. But it’s also true it does now come with baggage – created by all the many times and ways in which we ‘Christians’ have claimed it for ourselves as ‘special’ people and labeled others… Read more »