A NEW ZEALAND church billboard depicting a downcast Joseph lying beside Mary in bed and the heading “God is a hard act to follow” has provoked a religious row.
Archdeacon Glynn Cardy of the St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church in Auckland said it was intended to challenge stereotypes about the way Jesus was conceived and get people talking about the Christmas story.
“This billboard is trying to lampoon and ridicule the very literal idea that God is a male and somehow this male God impregnated Mary,” said Cardy, who described his church as having very liberal ideas about Christianity.
“We would question the Virgin Birth in any literal sense. We would question the maleness of God in any literal sense,” he said.
On the billboard Mary and Joseph are in bed side-by-side. Joseph is looking down. Mary, looking heavenward, appears sad. The caption reads: “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow.”
An Auckland Catholic Diocese spokeswoman said the billboard implied the Virgin Mary and Joseph had just had sex and was inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive to Christians.
Many messages on the church website attacked the image, while others defended it. “This billboard and your ‘sermon’ is a sacrilege,” one visitor, identified as Karen, posted.
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