As a marketer myself, I must admit this is exactly the kind of thing I’d be tempted to do. If someone brought this idea to me, I’d say, Yes, this will work! It’s perfect for the Hell brand. Of course, I’d also veto it.
As 3News and others report, comparing its hot cross buns to Jesus has predictably outraged some Christians. I think this response is misplaced. Outrage and righteous indignation hurt the cause of Christ while letting an apologetic opportunity slip by.
Many Christians seem to be imputing anti-Christian sentiment to Hell’s marketing: as if it were intended to make Christians angry. My sense, though, is that Hell came up with a good marketing idea, and were simply too clueless to recognize how it would be offensive to many of their own customers. I have it on first-hand testimony, in fact, that plenty of people genuinely do not understand, until it is explained to them, how this campaign could offend anyone. No doubt Hell had some inkling that the campaign would be controversial. But I’m not willing to ascribe to malice what can be better ascribed to stupidity.
This cuts across a broader issue. Many people seem to have been offended by this campaign because they assumed it was meant to offend. The assumed intent seems more offensive than the campaign itself. But even if it was a deliberate jab at Christians, why are we so uptight about this kind of thing, considering all the repeated warnings in the Bible about how we will be hated and ridiculed and mocked and persecuted for the name of Jesus? If this is the worst New Zealand has to offer in that regard, shouldn’t we be grateful? Shouldn’t we expect this kind of thing, and praise God that it’s so mild that we can boldly, and without fear, use it as an opportunity for helping more people understand what and why we believe about Jesus. You know, instead of getting our panties in a bunch and confirming everyone’s suspicions that Christians are just a bunch of prissy-prigs with nothing interesting to say?
Mind you, I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t find the ad offensive. Rather, I’m calling them to present their offense to the world in a way that will have a real effect. To rise above petty politics and personal outrage, and to step back and ask: How would Jesus himself see this? How would he respond? Wouldn’t he use it as a touchstone to expound on the gospel for the sake of the lost, rather than just jerking his knees?
We have to maintain some perspective. Is a dodgy Easter ad campaign more offensive to God than legalized prostitution and the killing of unborn children? I doubt it. Maybe to us it seems more urgent, because, you know, he’s our savior and we want to stand up for him. But we should try to keep things in proportion. God is the standard to judge by, not our own personal reactions. So let’s use this “outrage” as an opportunity to present the outrage of the gospel—not our own feelings. Hell is right: Jesus is a limited time offer. Order your salvation today, before this outrageous deal is gone forever.