Theological Editions - Indepth daily religious news, views, reviews & key theological resources

In-depth religious news, views, reviews, features & resources for the thinking person



Liturgy & Prayer

News & Magazines


Texts & Resources


Jesus loves Osama, an agnostic bishop and other ideas that stick
by Graeme J. Davidson,
24 February 2007

In their recent book, Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die, Chip and Dan Heath explain the six key principles for stickiness: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-telling. “Jesus loves Osama” has these ingredients.

...The sign “Jesus loves Osama” outside several Baptist churches in Sydney has caused a holy row across the ditch. Despite the bible quote in small print – “Jesus said: `Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’" – most thought that couldn’t include Osama Bin Laden.
...Prime Minister John Howard gave his own sermon on the topic. “Churches displaying such a message might have their priorities askew,” he told the media. “The prayer priority of the church on this occasion could have been elsewhere". Other leaders said it was insensitive to the victims of al Qaeda and that it was like saying Jesus loves Hitler or Pol Pot.
...There was a deluge of letters to editors and talkback shows were jammed with callers keen to share their theological expertise. An unprecedented quarter of a million Australians responded to a National Nine News poll, with over 80 percent agreeing with their Prime Minister.
...So, loving enemies is okay as long as they’re nice enemies. Even Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen thought the billboards “a bit misleading” and potentially offensive as they implied Jesus’ loving Osama meant Jesus approved of the al Qaeda leader, when that wasn’t so. The archbishop forgot to mention that Jesus chose as one of his disciples Simon the Zealot, a member of a first century terrorist organisation determined to oust the Romans from Judea by force.
...Most church billboards are like Teflon. What they say rarely sticks. Even signs like “Can’t sleep? Try our sermons”, “God allows U-turns” or “Atheists are beyond belief” produce a short-lived smile. So why did “Jesus loves Osama” succeed?
...In their recent book, Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die, Chip and Dan Heath explain the six key principles for stickiness: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-telling. “Jesus loves Osama” has these ingredients.
...Ideas don’t have to be true to stick. Seeing the Great Wall of China from space and getting razorblades in sweets at Halloween are nothing but urban myths, yet they’ve persisted for years.
...So what do we make of the comment by Bishop Richard Randerson, dean of Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, that he’s an agnostic? As a guest columnist for The New Zealand Herald, Randerson said there was no scientific proof one way or another of God’s existence, and “By that measure, I regard myself as an agnostic,”. He went on to say that seeking proof of the existence of God in scientific terms is a category mistake anyway – much of the bible deals in poetry and image, not science. He might have discussed historical evidence of God in the bible, but he didn’t. He didn’t need to add the bit about being an agnostic, but he did.
...When a bishop says something as simple, unexpected and concrete as that, which seems on the flip-side of what he stands for, it fits the criteria for chewing gum stickiness. In the same article, Randerson said that he felt uncomfortable leading Christian prayer in public “thus excluding people of other faiths”. Instead, he suggested inclusive prayers and “other writings of an aspirational nature” that reflect common Kiwi values. That’s like an ice-cream vendor saying he’s uncomfortable handing out his ice-cream in front of competitors.
...Randerson’s agnosticism sparked media comment, which upset his fellow Anglican bishops. So they fired a broadside at the messenger: “We regret the way in which the media and talkback hosts have caricatured Bishop Randerson as agnostic and unbeliever”. But didn’t Randerson write he was an agnostic? Yes. But he was only emphasising how we can’t prove God through science. Randerson later declared his belief that “God who, although a mystery, is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ". Still, the impression that sticks is of a devout Christian agnostic.
...Some ideas are like Velcro. They stick, but are easily undone. Take the church official who preaches the importance of being a “servant leader”. That’s a popular sticky slogan supported by the simple, concrete story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. But when the church leader never helps with the dishes at church functions, the Velcro comes unstuck.
...When it comes to religious ideas that stick like superglue, it’s hard to beat Karl Marx’s “Religion is the opium of the people”. Yet the bumper sticker, “Please Jesus, protect me from your followers” is likely to stick with many Christians and non-Christians alike.



See also
Should we intervene to prevent suicide? >> more
Divorce risk indicator >> more
When you feel like you're sharing a bed with a stranger >> more
Surving the breakup >> more
Suicide terrorism as a desperate weapon of liberation >> more
Ned Flanders — popular face of Christianity >> more
Seven common myths about religion >> more
Moral divide between church leaders and laity >> more
Unholy silence over MPs hypocrisy and greed >> more
Anglican schism over gay clergy inevitable >> more
My agonising path to enlightenment >> more
More than ever, it's a time for generosity >> more
National's ethics smell of political expediency >> more
Pope's trip to Holy Land fraught with potholes >> more
The resurrection may have been superfluous >> more
Rasputin — from sinner and seducer to saint? >> more
Religious delusions and the Jerusalem syndrome >> more
Protest mild compared with Jesus' vandalism >> more
What Castro and Obama have in common >> more
Holidays can revive romance or widen cracks between couples >> more
Dubious scholarship reinterprets Jesus to fit secular creed >> more
Furore over gay marriage echoes the conflict over slavery >> more
If only politics were as certain as dear old granny >> more
You've got to have faith to win the White House >> more
The problem of evil >> more
TV Programmers let lose Roman circus >> more
Prostitutes welcome in the kingdom of God but not in Dannevirke >> more
Church too busy navel-gazing to take lead over crime >> more
Will the Anglican Church split over gay clergy and same-sex unions? >> more
Faith in secular western society >> more
The Vatican's pelvic theology >> more
Abuse and the Beijing Olympics >> more
Would the real Jesus stand up? >> more
Hypersensitivity perverts ethics >> more
God and presidential hopefuls >> more
A three-ghetto church based on politics >> more
Good and bad intentions >> more
Deliver us from exorcists who harm >> more
How effective is prayer? >> more
Masters of non-violence, resistance and kung fu >> more
Was Mother Teresa living a lie? >> more
Double standards over child sex abuse >> more
Soppy inspirational and pseudo-spiritual emails >> more
Caring organisations and pyschopathic bosses >> more
The new anti-religious evangelists >> more
Call for religious education could backfire >> more
Blessing creatures great & small — but what about blowflies? >> more
Does God exist only in the brain? >> more
The Prudes who crucify >> more
tomb raiders and the bones of Jesus and his family? >> more
Jesus loves Osama >> more
Is God more like a matchbox or a number? >> more
Confessions of a failed axe murderer >> more
Bacchanalian festivals and sentimentality >> more
Manners: insignificant social customs? >> more
The 109 fighting boys >> more
Trying to exhume the historical Jesus >> more
Is global violence really on the increase? >> more
Polygamy, circumcision, atheist journalists and religious diversity >> more
The Christian Right stands by Israel out of a misguided theology  >> more 
What a rat taught me >> more
The Church is becoming a retirement hobby for granny clergy >> more 
Is there an anti-Christian conspiracy in Hollywood? >> more
Have church schools sold out on Christianity? >> more
How good a Christian is President George W Bush? >> more

Hitler, Lawyers, Politicians SUV owners and life after death >> more

Were the Christian hostages really idiots for peace? >> more
Infidelity: in hot pursuit of a better organsm or better intimacy? >> more
Skulduggery and controversy over discovery of religious texts >> more
The cartoons aren't about secular freedoms versus intolerance >> more

Christian Zionists hinder justice and peace in the Middle East >> more

Should making more money be your New Year's resolution? >> more
My early life as a black sheep in a nativity scene >> more
Different types of suicide bomber: what makes them tick >> more
Cheating a short cut to sucess in winner-take-all society >> more
Life after death: Is it logically possible? >> more
Is it Anglican to practise apartheid? >> more
Da Vinci Code unlocks controversy>> more
Bishops' statement: pompous, pious, out of touch and verging on the heretical >> more 
Church leaders unconvincing over prostitution law reform >> more
Divorce risk factors >> more
How global are we?  A Christian's view of globalisation >> more
Victims of dirty tricks & friendly fire: Machiavellian tactics in the Church militant >> more
A redundant resurrection >> more
War, violence, ethics, religion and hypocrisy >> more
If St Peter was interviewed for ordination today >> more
13 ways to empty a church without really trying >> more
How tolerant is the Museum of Tolerance? >> more
A church comes out and reconciliation divides >> more
Micah's dream — too much to ask? >> more
Has the revised Anglican Church in New Zealand instigated a benign form of religious apartheid? >> more
The case for St Judas Iscariot >> more
Exorcism: the ministry of deliverance >> more