St Matthew invites public to join billboard controversy

In 2009, the national director of Family First NZ Bob McCoskrie labelled a St Matthew in the City billboard “insensitive and objectionable to many people”. And despite continued condemnation from the more puritanical ranks of society, the church has continued to invite controversy by launching a range of follow-on advertisements, a quirky e-campaign and a reference to a campaign from the underworld-loving Hell Pizza.  

And now, in a move that aims to make the public complicit in its billboard controversy, the Auckland church is hosting a competition that requires Kiwis to design a billboard to promote the The Kensington Swan season of Jesus Christ Superstar, which plays at the Q Theatre from 30 October. 

The competition launched in conjunction with the Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will see the winner’s design on display at the infamous Hobson Street site for eight weeks to promote the show.

In addition, the winner will also receive two tickets to the opening night, $90 Villa Maria wine voucher (Jesus and wine go together), and dinner and a luxury room for two at City Life-Heritage Hotel.   

Given the church’s liberal billboard policy over the past few years, entrants are invited to introduce a little irreverence into their designs. And, as the release says, the competition also has an all-inclusive policy that typifies the church:

“Just as St-Matthew-in-the-City is open to people of any age, race, gender, sexual orientation or religious background, and ATC welcomes theatre lovers from any walk of life, this unique competition is open to people of all levels of design experience.”

Submissions are to be made online via ATC’s Facebook page and should include the hashtag #atcstmattsbillboard. The public will be invited to vote for the top three, and the winner will then be chosen by a judging panel from the public’s selected three. The final date for submissions is midnight Sunday 21 September.

These moves have clearly been made by the church in an effort to attract the younger members of society, who are increasingly turning away from religion. 

According to the statistics from the 2013 census, over 38 percent of respondents listed ‘No Religion’ as their religious affiliation compared to 43.47 percent who identified as Christian.

The percentage of Kiwis identifying as Christian has decreased incrementally from 69 percent in 1991 to the latest result and should this trend continue then it is likely that Kiwis with no religious affiliation could potentially outnumber Christians in the near future.  

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