I just came across an article about a billboard, seen above, of the Virgin Mary taking a pregnancy test, and yes, it’s positive. The billboard was posted by St. Matthew In-The-City Church in New Zealand and it’s purpose it to create controversy in order to spark conversation. Well it got my attention, half a world away.
Many people who viewed it felt it was inappropriate, especially outside of a church and at this time of the year, just two weeks before Christmas. The church’s argument is that the billboard depicts a natural reaction for Mary to have to her premonition, because she was young, poor, and unmarried. Using the pregnancy test, to demonstrate her shock at the news she was pregnant, was designed to provoke discussion about Christian faith. But, is this taking things a bit too far? I stop and this about it for a while.
At first I was shocked to see the picture. Who would expect such an image and created by a church no less? It definitely appears to be sacrilegious and offensive to me. But then again, young people today might need a wake up call. They know everything. When we try to educate them about sex and birth control you know there is a lot of eye rolling going on. Even those who are aware of all the facts, act irresponsibly. A billboard like this is going to open up all kinds of dialogue about teen pregnancy, about the church’s position on abstinence, about the responsibilities of having a baby before you are ready. So maybe it’s a good thing? The church even invited people to submit captions for the billboard and some suggestions included, “God give me strength to accept the things I cannot change." "HOLY MOTHER of GOD........oh...that's right...it's me..." And "Yay, I hope it's a girl.”
This isn’t the first controversial billboard the church has posted. The one in 2009 seems a lot worse to me and apparently to their parishioners as well. This one was painted over and when replaced, the replacement was cut with a knife. Several other replacements were vandalized as well. The 2009 billboard featured Mary and Joseph in bed with the caption: "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow." I just cannot see what kind of religious discussion this might provoke!
I think the church’s intentions may be good, but they definitely need to work on their execution. Using religious images in sacrilegious ways can turn more people away from the church and religion then they inspire to discuss issues. It’s a fine line they are crossing and the 2009 billboard definitely was way over the top.