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I was offended by this advert showing a nun drinking beer. But I've changed my mind. Here's why
A new advertising campaign features nuns sipping low alcohol beer. Should we be offended? Marketing consultant and ordained minister Nick Myers gives his view
Lucky Saint’s advert immediately got my hackles up.
What on earth are a nun, a beer and a Bible verse doing on this poster?
Is this image, which was spotted on the streets of Shoreditch, yet another example of our secular society profaning the sacred?
Upon looking at their website, I discovered that Lucky Saint is in fact a non-alcoholic beer. So they're actually trying to help people drink less alcohol, not more. That’s a noble aim, but my initial reaction was still one of unease. And it seems I'm not alone. We Christians often like to voice our concerns when our faith is used to sell products, especially when this is done in a way which is judged to be blasphemous.
If you want to find adverts to be upset about, you need not look too far. Just look at the telecoms industry! Some have objected to Three Mobile's latest TV ad, for example. And back in 2011, Phones 4U launched an advert which featured Jesus giving the thumbs up. The Advertising Standards Agency banned it, deeming it "disrespectful" to the Christian faith.
In one of the more famous examples of irreverent adverts, Greggs swapped Jesus for a sausage roll in a promotional image for its 2017 advent calendar. Some Christians were upset, although, writing for Premier Christianity at the time, the Evangelical Alliance's Danny Webster said the company was merely attempting to "concoct outrage among Christians". Nevertheless, Greggs apologised. Will Lucky Saint be forced to do the same?
The most shocking aspect of this advert is not that a nun is drinking beer (Catholics have no problem with drinking alcohol). Depicting Catholics in adverts isn't shocking either. After all, there was a Stella Artois advert featuring skating Catholic priests back in 2005 which didn’t receive any backlash. No, the most shocking thing about this ad is actually the Bible verse.
Look at the advert. There is no headline or body text. There's no call to visit a website or find Lucky Saint down the local shops. There's only a provoking Bible verse. 1 Peter 5:8. Do you know what it says?
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Lucky Saint might be using the Bible to sell their non-alcoholic beer (an idea that Christians are rightly uncomfortable with). But they've done something else as well. Something far more positive.
They've inadvertently used their advertising budget to direct more people to the Bible! This includes people who maybe would not pick up a Bible otherwise. When Premier Christianity put this idea to Lucky Saint, they agreed. Here's what their spokesperson said: "The Bible verse was intended as a talking point for people to investigate and find out the meaning behind the coded reference."
In other words: they hope the advert will cause people to investigate what 1 Peter 5:8 is. Let's not assume that those wandering around Shoreditch on a Friday night know what a Bible reference looks like. They'll have to get out their mobile phones and Google this strange reference. This investigation will obviously lead them to the Bible, which reminds me of another scripture: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
Nick Myers an ordained minister and also founder of the marketing consultancy Loveable
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