Big-Breasted Jesus Causes Controversy

Vala Hafstað

An advertisement from the National Church of Iceland, encouraging children to attend Sunday school, caused quite a controversy over the weekend. It depicts a big-breasted, bearded Jesus, wearing a white dress and makeup, cheerfully dancing under a rainbow.

The ad had been posted on the church’s website and Facebook page but was removed Saturday. The cheerful Jesus will continue to adorn Reykjavík buses, though, for at least two more weeks.

Pétur Georg Markan, media representative for the church, recently told mbl.is that the church believes it is positive and natural for Jesus to appear to people in all possible forms. In that way, the church celebrates diversity.

He did, however, add that the church understands the attitude that it ought to be cautions when it comes to the personification of Jesus. “We know that not everyone agrees Christ should appear this way, and we do of course respect that,” he stated.

He explained that more pictures of Jesus by the same  artist would be used in the ad campaign. “Soon, we’ll be introducing more personifications where, for example, you’ll see Jesus making a contribution to environmental issues,” he stated.

The cost of the ad campaign is about ISK 2 million (USD 114,800; EUR 12,500), Pétur revealed yesterday. The main contribution comes from the bishop’s office and the rest from parishes in the capital area.

Yesterday, the annual Assembly of the National Church issued the following statement:

“The 2020 Assembly of the National Church regrets that the picture of Jesus in a Sunday school advertisement has hurt people. The goal was to emphasize diversity, neither to hurt people nor shock them.”

Pétur stresses that the assembly was not apologizing for the picture. “It’s just as important for us to bring attention to diversity as it is to respect the opinions of those who don’t like this representation of Christ,” he states.

“Each person interprets something in this picture,” Guðrún Karls- og Helgudóttir, minister of Grafarvogskirkja church, tells mbl.is. “Some people interpret it as a trans-Jesus, others as a woman. Some see Mary with a beard, and others see a genderqueer person. Views within the church are just as diverse as elsewhere,” she concludes.

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