An unholy row has broken out in New Zealand over a church billboard aimed at "challenging stereotypes" about the birth of Jesus Christ.
The mischievous biblical bedroom billboard was defaced just over five hours after it was erected. The controversial billboard, erected by St Matthew-in-the-City Church about 11am, shows Joseph looking down dejectedly and Mary looking sad. Underneath is a caption, "Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow." The church has said it erected the billboard to inspire people to talk about the Christmas story. The church's archdeacon said its mischievous biblical bedroom billboard had provoked support and disapproval in about equal measures. Archdeacon Glynn Cardy said the church had received emails and phone calls since it made the public aware of the billboard yesterday.
The billboard has already raised the wrath of the traditional values pressure group Family First. "The church can have its debate on the Virgin birth and its spiritual significance inside the church building, but to confront children and families with the concept as a street billboard is completely irresponsible and unnecessary," Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said. "The church has failed to recognise that public billboards are exposed to all of the public including children and families who may be offended by the material." Catholic Church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said the image was inappropriate and disrespectful.
The archdeacon said the plan behind the billboard was to lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story.