Tacky Taste or Gospel Engagement?

Letter to the Editor of The Mercury, December 28th 2011:

Ad in tacky taste

In relation to Christmas tackiness I thought I had seen it all.

But I must admit to being blown away by St David cathedral’s advertisement in the Christmas services guide(Mercury, December 24).

While the Pope warns Christians to look beyond the Christmas glitter, the Anglican Church of Tasmania looks glitter square in the eye and comes off second best.

How crass can it be for a church to make use of a well known supermarket’s advertising campaign to spruik attendance for its own supposedly otherwordly Christmas celebration.

St David’s, and all who sail in her, would do well to meditate on Christ’s driving of the money changers out of the temple.

I wonder if the supermarket will sue or if they’ll just thank God for the free advertising.

Greg Mansell, Ulverstone

Reply from The Dean:

I am sorry that Greg Mansell (Mercury, December 28) found the Cathedral adverstising crass but it is far more worrying that he thinks that Christmas is an otherworldly celebration.

The Christian Christmas message is that in Jesus God became this worldly, that Down Down our God came Down.

That is what we celebrate at Christmas and should impact our lives throughout the year.

He came down into this crass world of advertising, politics and need, which should transform how think about this world, each other and particularly those in need, like asylum seekers.

This message of God’s free self giving also fundamentally undermines the selfishness of consumerism, hence the parody of the ad where everything is free.

If consumerism has stolen Christmas we were in our small way trying to steal it back.

There is more information in my Christmas Day sermon at http://www.stdavidscathedralhobart.org

God bless

Richard Humphrey, Dean of Hobart, St. Davids Cathedral


Is the Cathedral’s use of an advertisement a good example of meaningfully communicating the Gospel of Christ in a local context?

or  Has the Cathedral lost the Gospel in its attempt to communicate relevantly in its cultural context?

– Tacky Taste or Gospel Engagement?  – What thinks thee?


NOTE: Contextualising the Gospel is a challenge. See, What is Contextualisation? my Address for BCA Mission Australia 2001.

Contextualisation is “the various processes by which a local church integrates the Gospel message (the “text”) with its local culture (the “context”)”. The text and context must be blended into that one, God-intended reality called “Christian Living”.

Culture Missiology makes use of cultural anthropology to elucidate culture defined as, “a dynamic system of socially acquired and socially shared ideas, according to which an intersecting group of human beings is to adapt itself to its physical, social and ideational environment”.

 [Louis J. Luzbetak, The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology, Orbis, New York, 1988, p. 69 and 74.]


Tacky Taste or Gospel Engagement? — 3 Comments

  1. I thought it was clever… Eye-catching, funny, and thought provoking. I think it could be quite effective at getting the unchurched to come and hear a sermon. I guess that Mr. Ulverstone isn’t its intended audience.

  2. Hi Steven, I thought it was engaging because the advertisement was so well known and the “down, down” just lent itself to Christ coming down to earth.

  3. Mr Greg Mansell’s name revives personal memories from the Deloraine area and 1999-2000.

    That aside, I view the ad for Christmas services at the Cathedral as a prophetic and entirely appropriate, biting satire on that all-smothering crass commodification of Christmas and Easter by which the retail sector regularly seeks to add them to that latter-day Vanity Fair we know as “the consumer economy”.

    I can’t help remembering a certain Canadian missionary who began a Gospel address in a premises in downtown Bombay by running up and down the room, calling out “Fire! Fire!” until a crowd and the fire brigade were in attendance for the main part of his sermon!

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