On earth as it is in heaven? While Paris burns, Brussels is in lock down, and Turkey blasts a Russian fighter plane out of the sky... the CofE gets into the advertising business.
A cinema chain banned an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. Fearing the worst I took a look at the video here...and it wasn't quite as cringe-making as I feared. Not quite, but pretty close. It was certainly somewhat inane. It doesn't stop you in your tracks. It doesn't give any sense of transcendency, of the holy, of the Presence. Its just words and pictures which don't speak about heaven, just about earth. It hardly rivals Spectre, indeed played in that context it runs the danger of making CofE Christianity appear bland and just plain boring.
OK, so not offensive, but not even remotely inspiring, certainly not exciting, maybe a bit nice but hardly anything to disturb you mid fist full of popcorn. Which is why, I would suggest most people have stopped going to church chez CofE. Quite frankly there are more interesting, exciting and interesting - even if slightly offensive - things going on out there and the CofE just isn't part of it.
The whole farcical episode neatly exposes actually how the Church of England is conspiring in its own extinction. The world is in melt-down, with bombs, terrorists, refugees, let alone the crisis facing many of society's most needy as the benefit systems moves from atrophy to implosion or the very real tensions which face our multi-faith society. At such a time when human beings face their own fragility and mortality, and the spectacularly insecure basis of modern life, then God is the one thing left to ponder and yes, cling to. (Clinging to a life raft is no more ludicrous or intellectually bankrupt than clinging to God in a crisis). In a world bereft of beauty and the transcendent, the Church should be the one place where God does break through in very tangible ways.
By this I mean holiness. The media get people like Pope Francis and Mother Teresa. They are the best sort of adverts, because they ring true. And religion, all too often, does seem like its a bit forced and lacking any real depth lapses into platitudes, all too often with that dreadful clerical drawl or a hand ringing 'well it depends what you mean' caveat. Real transcendent Presence is deeply infectious and it creates resolution, determination, hope. Greece and Russia have managed to keep a majority of their populations within the active ambit of the Church, in part I believe because of the exceptional nature of some of their saints, people like Saint Paisios of Athos or the many martyr priests of the Gulags during the Communist era. This is also true of Poland and Italy, where the likes of Padre Pio and St John Paul II have provided a credible experience of the transcendent truth about which their respective Churches have preached about. You can't talk about praying for God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven if you don't have any real saints to point to, and I mean real, up front, in your face radicalised Christians living beyond the reach of most human beings in terms of wisdom, chastity, and sacrificial love.
A two minute clip about Pope Francis would make a much better impact. Take this pretty amazing story for example, http://catholicsay.com/a-kiss-from-pope-francis-heals-a-babys-inoperable-brain-tumor/ . Why couildnt the CofE come up with something deep, sincere and honestly rooted in human life as it meets the transcendent? Maybe the CofE just have bad media advisors? Or maybe there is something more substantive missing in the body ecclesia Anglicana which no amount of advertising can make up for?
If Christianity is the truth, if Jesus is God in the flesh, if His words really are from heaven, and His power really does continue here on earth as it does in heaven, then lets get on with showing people that. Lets really offend people with something which they don't want to hear because they can't make sense of it or because it really does make demands they can't or won't meet. Lets really take the risk of seeming ridiculous, because in all honestly the truth really is almost unbelievable. Almost. That's the advert the CofE ought to have made. Sadly it didn't. And yes, I am offended at such a paltry balderisation of my Christian faith.