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The news that a mobile phone company ad featuring a winking Jesus has been banned from future use should cause alarm among free speech fans. While using religious imagery to sell phones may seem a little crass, there is no real taboo around Christian imagery, despite the best efforts of the iconoclasts over the ages.
The placing of the ad during Holy Week may have seemed topical, but it apparently led 98 Christians to complain that it was disrespectful.
Phones4U claimed the ad aimed to present a “light-hearted, positive and contemporary image of Christianity relevant to the Easter weekend”. Why this is the job of Phones4U is not fully explained (though there are clearly echoes of “the values of the Carphone Warehouse” going on here: if you don’t know what I mean by that, watch the below clip now.
It is possible, however, that someone really has been wronged in all this: US director Kevin Smith, who introduced the Buddy Christ figure in his film Dogma. Smith, a Catholic, used the image as a satire on the church’s sporadic attempts to present itself as a youthful, hip organisation (the campaign in the film is given the painful title Catholicism Wow!)
Is it possible Smith’s copyright has been infringed?
Meanwhile, I can’t help but be reminded of another riff on the Buddy Christ idea, country singer Hayes Carll’s quite brilliant “She Left Me For Jesus”