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All You Need is Christ ~ Unless You Have the Money to Buy Presents Too

The Church of England’s Christmas campaign is Christmas Starts with Christ, which is quite good. A direct reminder to anyone who cares to listen that Christmas may not have had its origins in consumerism. The campaign plays with those words: Does Christmas start with telly ads in October? No! It starts with Christ and Does Christmas start with a fight on Eastenders? No! It starts with Christ. Pretty good. But then there is this one: Does Christmas have to start with a payday loan? No! It starts with Christ. This last one makes me feel very uncomfortable.

I’m willing to bet that the people who thought up this strap line, designed the poster and approved the concept will not need a payday loan to buy presents for their husbands, wives, partners, children, siblings, parents and friends. I’m also willing to bet that many of the people this ad is direct towards, the poor among us, will need a payday loan to buy presents for their love ones. The slogan tells them this: You don’t need to give presents to your children. All you need is Christ.

What is so troublesome about this particular ad is that the people who created the slogan will have Christ and presents. Regardless of where Christmas starts, they will give gifts to their families and friends on Christmas. Once again it is middle class and rich church members telling the poor all they need is faith while they themselves have faith plus the other stuff too.

It’s difficult for those of us who have enough or have plenty to imagine what it must be like to be unable to give Christmas presents to your children. Payday loan? You bet. I sure love Christ, but my kids deserve a gift too.

It would be different if the church announced that along with this ad about payday loans church leaders and members were not going to buy gifts for their love ones this Christmas to stand in solidarity with the poor. It would the church say: If we are encouraging you to not take out a loan and therefore not be able to give presents to your family, then we too will not give presents to our families.  It could be a Christmas starts with Christ and ends with Christ campaign. And yes, in this case we would all be in it together. It would be even more impressive if church leaders and members were to take the money they would have spent on Christmas, and not buy presents for poor people because it’s a Christ-filled Christmas for all of us, but instead gave that money to the organisations that run the over 400 hundreds of food banks in Britain that will help people feed their families on Christmas (it’s estimated that the Trussell Trust supplies food for almost 500,000 people, a third of whom are children).

There is something else. If the church is going to encourage people not to use payday loan companies at Christmas, hopefully that same church is also asking the powers and principalities why the payday loan companies are thriving. Church pronouncements of faith and theology that only encourage people to turn to Christ without challenging the structures and powers that create poverty are cheap.

Well, it is Christmas and I’m certain the payday loan ad means well and the Church of England offers an alternative to payday loan companies through their credit unions. I just wish the church of all traditions would just be a little more careful.

Copyright © 2013 Dale Rominger

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