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Monday, 3 September 2012

Hello Godbaby

Godbaby is the new face of the church this Christmas. Here he is in all his plasticy glory:


Created by the ChurchAds advertising network, Godbaby is the latest in a recent line of seasonal posters created to challenge popular conceptions of Jesus.

Other similar posters include this famous 2006 attempt to communicate Jesus' revolutionary nature by merging his face with that of communist revolutionary Che Guevara:


A couple of years ago, a furore was caused by a Christmas poster campaign featuring an ultrasound of Jesus.


The president of the National Secular Society was so upset about (what he read to be) the ethical implications of Jesus' baby scan that he suggested "the image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs".

He was, of course, missing the point.

As others have pointed out, Jesus's birth was anything but "benign" and the intent of these posters is to shake up popular conceptions of 'sweet baby Jesus, meek and mild'.

Godbaby, which comes in two variations (the second of which is below), is - like the previous posters - designed to provoke discussion rather than explain the message of Jesus in its entirety.


Mark Greene, executive director of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, praised the posters, telling the Evangelical Alliance that Godbaby is a "double-barrelled ad" which "simultaneously undermines two corrosive, contemporary beliefs: Jesus is not just a mythic baby to coo at, he is God. And his birth isn't primarily a marketing trigger for buying toys and gifts, it's a moment to remember how desperately we need God and how extravagantly God loves his world."

What do you think of Godbaby? Does it achieve its purpose... and is its purpose a good one?

13 comments:

  1. Honestly ? I think this is blasphemous. Does Almighty God need us to market Him in plastic ? I think not. A certain commandment mentioning graven images springs to mind.

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  2. I fully agree with Susanna's points.
    Personally I find the poster (and the others), deeply offensive.
    This will nothing to attract people to the real and lovely person of Christ.
    'Be not deceived; God will not be mocked...' Galations 6v7

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  3. Honestly, I'd like to make a thoughtful, considered response but I just hate it too much. This does nothing but trivialise the gospel. I wish we'd keep the God of the universe away from petty sloganeering. All we do is turn the deepest, most noble story in the universe into a shallow consumer product that tickles our fancy if we're so inclined. It's stuff like this which makes me - and I know it's emotional hyperbole - want to burn every single advert I ever come across. I truly cannot express adequately enough my hatred for this.

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  4. I'm surprised it inspires such negative reactions. I must admit my first reaction was "this is trying too hard to be provocative", but I read it as a kind of satire - you look at the poster and immediately think "oh gosh, what a crass thing to do with Jesus; turning him into an excuse to sell mass-produced rubbish", then you realise that is exactly what happens at Christmas: We use a celebration of his birth as an opportunity to sell stuff. I think it's one of those 'keep Christ in Christmas' kind of messages.

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  5. Jesus of course came as a humble servant in a lowly manger, but he was still God, high and lifted up - which is why those shepherds bowed down in his presence. I think you get a (justifiable) negative reaction when you distort the god/man nature of christ too far in either direction. Does that make sense?

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Stephen, I would agree with you, and I have no special interest in defending the poster. I posted this because I was curious about people's reactions.
      I wonder, though, if it is satirizing our culture's treatment of Jesus rather than actually satirizing Jesus himself?

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  6. I wonder if the intended audience - those who don't know Jesus, will look at the poster and see anything other than a slightly weird attempt to appear contemporary? Maybe I'm underestimating how thoughtful people are about poster campaigns... Even if people spot the dig at the commercialisation of Christmas, how much good does that do? We're still a far leap from talking about why God sent his Son into the world. I don't expect my friends who don't know Jesus to celebrate Christmas as anything other than a traditional holiday (if that) - if Jesus means nothing to them, why pretend otherwise? I am all for starting a conversation about Jesus, and I'd love people to know what good news it is that Jesus became flesh, but I'm not sure I'd find the poster a useful starting point for that kind of conversation.

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    1. Thanks, Emily. I think you've hit the nail on the head, in that while it may not be particularly offensive, maybe it is raising the wrong question. 'Keep Jesus in Christmas' is hardly a core issue of the Christian faith, nor is it the strongest conversational starting point for people newly considering Jesus. But it will be all over the country this Christmas, so I'm wondering if there might be a better way to talk with friends about it than just expressing our dislike.
      What do you think of the other posters (of Che and the scan)?

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    2. Visually, they're striking, if a little cheesy (I wonder if that's just my preconceptions of 'Christian posters' though!?) and the Che one particularly gets people thinking a bit more about who Jesus was. I think you're right - for whatever flaws we may spot in them, it's a good idea to think about how to use them well - any ideas?! I'm hopeful that fruitful conversations will be generated from them!

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  7. Hello, I created the poster. The image is not of Jesus, it is of a plastic toy. We all know Jesus isn't a toy. However, this toy saves the world which makes it a pretty special one. Perhaps too special to even be a toy. The question is, what kind of 'must have' Christmas item can do this? Jesus. He's called Godbaby because this is an accurate description of baby Jesus - God as a baby. It sounds like a Christmas toy but is actually pretty descriptive of what happened at Christmas. All we've done is to use the language and imagery of the retail Christmas to put over a message about Jesus Christ. Thanks

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    1. Hey Chas,

      Thanks so much for commenting and for adding your explanation of the poster. It was helpful.

      I was wondering who the poster was aimed at?

      And also: Are you finding that people are getting the meaning you intended from the poster or does it usually take quite a bit of explanation?

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  8. Hey Chas,
    Thank you so much for 'owning' the poster....we're using it for our publicity and I'm basing my talk for our carol service on it...(using John 1)...the fact that it has produced shocked and negative responses is so much better than the insipid 'that's nice'response to so many images and stereotypes....keep them coming!!

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  9. I wonder what the effect on Jesus's family was, knowing that he had been born of a virgin.

    I wonder if the disciples knew that Jesus had been born of a virgin. Little wonder they wondered if he was the Messiah.

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