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Sam Hailes responds to the news that Lidl have removed Christian crosses from their food packaging
What do Lidl and ISIS have in common? Answer: Both organisations remove Christian crosses from churches.
ISIS’ genocide against Christians and destruction of religious architecture has been well documented. But what wasn’t so well known (until this week) is that the German supermarket chain Lidl has also taken it upon themselves to remove Christian crosses.
When it came to designing the packaging for their Mousaka, Lidl used the power of Photoshop (other photo editing programs are available) to erase crosses from the roofs of famous Greek Orthodox churches in Santorini (see above photo).
Now clearly there’s a huge difference between the persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East and what Lidl have done. But whether attempts to remove crosses are violent and bloody, or digital and politically correct, the outcome is the same and a war is (deliberately or unintentionally) waged against Christianity’s most important and most central symbol.
What's ironic, is Lidl apparently removed the crosses in order to avoid causing offence to religious people. But it wasn't the inclusion of the cross (on previous versions of the packaging) which caused offense - it was the removal of it!
Lidl had perhaps assumed their atheist, Muslim and Sikh shoppers would be so offended by the mere appearance of a Christian cross that they’d storm out of their local shop and never return. There's no evidence to suggest this is the case. And frankly, the idea that any person would be offended by the appearance of a religious symbol on the packaging of their Mousaka is laughable.
Thankfully, Lidl have now realised the error of their ways and have confirmed they will be "revising the design as soon as possible." I hope this means they'll be putting the crosses back on, rather than changing the design entirely, but time will tell.
A big deal?
There isn’t a singular 'Christian viewpoint' on this news story. Some have been outraged and launched campaigns, petitions and even threatened to boycott Lidl. But other Christians have shrugged their shoulders and argued there are more important things to worry about in life. They have a point, and no doubt I’ll be berated for choosing to write about this today and not the hurricane in the Caribbean / the Brexit debate / the new Taylor Swift song. (Delete as appropriate).
While I’d love to share my 3,000 word essay on ‘…Ready for it?’, we need to come back to the issue at hand. Admittedly a supermarket airbrushing an image on their Mossakah in once sense isn’t a big deal. But it is interesting how it’s the cross which is under attack. This symbol which is "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:18) and "an offense" (Galatians 5:11) to the world, is of paramount importance for us who believe. Given these scriptures, perhaps Christians should expect wider society to want to airbrush our central symbol?
In an increasingly secular society, Christians will have to work harder to make our voices heard. We will need to choose our battles. Not every social media controversy is worth getting angry about. But on balance, I think it's right that Christians (calmly) call Lidl out on this. To be frank - the action Lidl took was so ridiculous it’s unsurprising it’s got some of the Christian keyboard warriors going!
But we may want to consider how we’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot. How would you feel if a photo of a mosque appeared on the packaging of your favourite brand of hummus? Would you still buy it? (I know some Christians who wouldn’t). What if the star and crescent had been airbrushed off of a mosque? Would it bother you? Would you demand action and an apology from Lidl in that case?
The reason these questions are important is this. We Christians (rightly) demand respect from the rest of society at times like this. That's all well and good. But we can't claim to be standing for 'religious freedom' if we only call for society to respect us. I'm not saying we all need to start campaigning on issues relating to other religions. But we do need to remind ourselves that we live in a democracy where every religion has a right to publicly portray their religious symbols. Not just us Christians.
There are people of all faiths and none in this country. How should society cope with this plethora of different beliefs? The answer is not that we pretend all religions are the same. The answer is not that we remove any public reference to any religion.
The answer is that we encourage and welcome the appearance of religious signs in public. The answer is that we seek to understand people who don't believe the same things as us. The answer is we allow everyone to have a voice and we defend the rights of not only Christians but those of other religions to bring their private beliefs into the public sphere. That way, maybe society will finally understand it's not offensive to put a cross (or any other religious symbol) on food packaging. I’ll take the Mosakah, but you can keep your airbrush.
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