This is turning into a bit of a series, or a saga, on Christianity in the public sphere. I’ve actually got a couple more up my sleeve too. So if you’re enjoying them… stay tuned.
Back in the post about billboards from a couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Islamic “Jesus: prophet of Islam” campaign in Sydney. I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it in the post because the ACL Rip’n'roll thing was more timely, but it has been interesting to watch the Sydney evangelical juggernaut respond to the billboard challenge with grace and the proclamation of Jesus.
Here’s the Islamic Billboard (and the associated SMH story).
The Centre for Public Christianity put together a really nice interview with the Muslim guy behind the billboard, which you can watch below…
And right off the bat the Sydney Christians have been on message – starting with Bishop Forsyth who responded by disagreeing with the sentiment of the billboard while welcoming the discussion (unlike the Catholics).
“The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Rob Forsyth, said it was ”complete nonsense” to say Jesus was a prophet of Islam. ”Jesus was not the prophet of a religion that came into being 600 years later.”
But the billboard was not offensive, he said. ”They’ve got a perfect right to say it, and I would defend their right to say it [but] … you couldn’t run a Christian billboard in Saudi Arabia.”
The bishop said he would pay for billboards to counter those of MyPeace if he could afford it, and ”maybe the atheists should run their billboards as well”.
Turns out that last statement (not the atheist bit) didn’t fall on deaf ears, and some funds were fronted to respond with an appropriate Christian message. And this is it.
This billboard sits on the M4, a highway in Sydney, getting stacks of traffic and, at the very least, making it clear that not all Christians are bigoted idiots. So full points for that. If people do use this as an opportunity to engage in conversation with Muslim friends then this could be a really amazing story where the media give coverage to the question of who Jesus is.
I’ve had a chat to one of the guys behind this slogan tonight and I really appreciate the way they worked to keep grace at the heart of the response in order to avoid being combative or defensive, and they’ve made it all about Jesus. And they’ve made it welcoming. I love the “Aussie Muslims/Aussie Christians” thing and hope that some really good dialogue is born out of this. I’ve written a piece for the aussiechristians.com.au website, no idea when my bit will go live, but head on over and join in any discussion that happens on any of the posts. Just do it with grace, and understanding that the aim of the campaign is to have a friendly, grown up, dialogue about who Jesus actually is. If you don’t want to participate, pray that the outcome of this campaign will be fruitful conversation about Jesus.