Brian Edwards Media

Oh, Christmas!

This year’s billboard from St Matthew-in-the-City. Ya gotta love them!



  1. LOL – I do.

  2. Oh, lordy lordy lordy. Was is Tom or Shane or Brad or that Jamaican chef with the mighty….
    It was such a night.
    God help me know who the Father is.

  3. whoops..there goes another rubber tree plant ?

  4. I don’t think I mind having my (conservative) theological assumptions and beliefs challenged. I loved the “Life of Brian – and contrary to the pig-headed fundamentalists who made a fuss at the time, there was no blasphemy in it. Unless you were a campus Trotskyite…

    But am I the only one who thinks these attempts by St Matt’s-in-the-City to be “relevant” and “edgy” are about as boring and cliched as a stand-up comedian shouting out “f*&k!” to get attention and a few cheap laughs? A bit like an impromptu Uni comedy skit that isn’t really that funny, but no one has the good sense to wind it up. 

  5. Yeah its a very human moment , that look that I imagine so many woman have experienced, that.. oh

  6. It is interesting to me that at that time “virgin” meant upright and good woman, rather than the modern meaning. If that is so it has queered the pitch for millions of Christians especially Catholics.

  7. They are very clever though, as with the one that caused so much angst and vandalism, I wonder if they might have put them up about 8 months prior to Xmas …

  8. Except this would be Mary 9 months before Xmas (around Easter…)

  9. Not bad, although you have to wonder about the newsworthiness of an item that involves TV a journey of precisely one block from the newsroom. Isn’t a St Matthew billboard piece the ultimate slow news day story?

  10. Yeah if I were a virgin I’d be quite surprised too!

  11. …and I just heard a spokesperson for “Catholic Action” on talkback radio complaining about this “blasphemy” regarding “The Blessed Virgin and Mother of God”. Which has got me thinking…

    As an orthodox Calvinist Protestant I share much in common with my Roman Catholic friends. However, I am also conscious that the name “Protestant” derives from the fact that we “protest” against certain Catholic beliefs and practices. Some of which are the veneration, adoration and petitioning of the Virgin Mary. Orthodox Catholics may cry “blasphemy” at this picture, but Protestants cry “blasphemy” at the cry of “blasphemy”! Sounds like a scene from “The Life of Brian”!

    I am sorry that my RC friends are possibly offended. As a Protestant, who also affirms the doctrine of the incarnation via the virgin conception (but not all the other stuff regarding Mary that Rome insists on – perpetual virginity, bodily assumption, mediating ministry), I think the picture is implying that miracle didn’t take place. Mary is portrayed as reacting in a way far different to that recorded in Luke 1: 26-38, where the angel Gabriel explains the cause and reason for the positive pregnancy test.

    However, an implication is merely an implication, and as with all art the interpretation is often in the eye of the beholder. Maybe Mary is reacting in awe at the confirmation of what was previously announced. Unlikely given the artistic source, but it’s Christmas, and I’m trying to be charitable!

    Anyway, as much as I find St Matt’s a pack of try-hards, and as much as I don’t take delight when Catholics, or anyone else for that matter, are offended, I think the reaction of “Catholic Action” reaffirms the value of our non-sectarian public life. I prefer the term “non-sectarian” to “secular”, but that is a related side issue…

    However, whether we are non-sectarian or secular, you are free to believe what you want, and propagate it in a non-violent manner. However, your beliefs may actually offend others, no matter how pleasantly or innocuously you package them. I know my Calvinist beliefs can provoke that reaction from other Christians, followers of other faiths, and also the non-religious.

    Accordingly, you may also choose to view public displays or acts of “blasphemy” as reasons to protest and complain. Or you may decide they are a useful opportunity to dialogue with others of differing religious and non-religious beliefs, and ask the valid question “why do I believe what I do?”. Fatwas, jihads, crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts and moral panics, let alone the privileging of any belief system are not valid options, and are to be assiduously guarded against. .

    Which is why NO ONE has the right to silence others if they think their sensibilities or feelings, be they religious, ideological, political or otherwise, are offended. That is an umbrella that protects “Catholic Action”, as much as Communists, Capitalists, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists.

    Which is why I was uneasy when Helen Clark as PM spoke out a number of years ago over the “South Park” episode with the bleeding statue of the Madonna. I’ve always found “South Park” writers Parker and Stone the most honest and fearless satirists around, on a far higher thought-provoking level than St Matts. Plus they do scatology really well! And a careful examination of the episode in question showed that there target wasn’t Catholicism at all. But even if was, tough! Join the Scientologists, Protestants, Muslims, Alcoholics Anonymous, and everyone else who have been the targets of their well-aimed barbs!

    Anyway, maybe Clark’s heart was in the right place because Kiwis of a particular belief system were being unnecessarily offended or provoked. Nevertheless, her instincts were wrong, as the unavoidable price of freedom which we all have a vested interest to protect, is that you sometimes get your feelings hurt…

    Merry Xmas

  12. Kimbo writes: “Mary is portrayed as reacting in a way far different to that recorded in Luke 1: 26-38, where the angel Gabriel explains the cause and reason for the positive pregnancy test”.

    Sorry Kimbo but they didn’t have testing kits way back then.

  13. @ Candy

    Next you’ll be telling me Charlton Heston isn’t Moses, Jehovah doesn’t speak in Elizabethan English and sound like Cecil B. DeMille, and Jesus of Nazareth didn’t, as per the Renaissance artists, look like Sven of Stockholm.

    Not sure I can take much more cognitive dissonance…

  14. She’s just done the test, so I would’ve thought she’d be wrapped in only a towel.

  15. . ..and I note that it would appear that the same gentlemen who was expressing his ire, which I mentioned in my (probably long and rambling, but possibly now a bit more pertinent) post of December 16, has now taken his “Catholic Action”: –

    A few thoughts: –

    “”Yes it’s vandalism and if they want to arrest me then be my guest,” (Arthur) Skinner said. ”If it comes to that, I believe in being persecuted for my faith”.
    Yes, he should be arrested, and no, if he is, he won’t be persecuted for his religious faith. Anymore than I would be as a zealous Protestant if I went around with a sledge hammer smashing, as per the righteous anti-idolatrous Reformation precedent, every blasphemous statue of “our lady” that defiles our fair land.

    “Some people dont see this as how it should be seen – as a blasphemy, pure and simple,” he said.

    Skinner said if the church replaced the billboard he would rip it down again”.
    All the more reason to prosecute him, as he is now holding us all to ransom by the dictates of his religious conscience.
    “Elizabeth Skinner, 17, was among the group which attended the meeting outside the church.

    ”We’re here to say the rosary and reparation for the blasphemous image of our lady up here,” she said”.

    Despite my distaste for Mariolatry, I am glad I live in a country where Arthur and Elizabeth Skinner are free to practice their (from my Protestant perspective) Roman Catholic blasphemy. Just as St Matt’s is free to practice theirs.

    “Skinner said there are half a million Catholics in New Zealand who were outraged about the sign”.

    Sorry to hear that, Arthur, but you need to harden up a bit. Or, if you can’t keep your hands off other people’s property, emigrate to a country where criticism of Roman Catholicism is illegal. Franco died in 1975, so Spain is no longer an option.

    ”The politicians should be getting into this church and saying ‘you cannot do this’,” he said”.

    Oh, no they shouldn’t! There is already too much recent self-censorship in Western society, particularly concerning a certain “Prophet” of a particular monotheistic religion originating in the Middle East (you have three major options!), without blasphemy laws curtailing our civil and religious freedoms.

    ”This is making a comedy of her and she is not an object of comedy.”

    That is the price you pay for freedom – what you consider important, even worthy of worship, others can consider an object of fun – or more precisely the all-too-human foibles that surround objects of religious or ideological adoration. Arthur Skinner is either tragic or comic, probably both.

    He is also a bigot, and a threat to our social well-being. St Matt’s were not crying “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. He, and Catholic Action need to learn to exercise some self-restraint.

  16. Kimbo – aside from the biblical source I think the St Mathews image was simply using the “mana” of mary to illustrate the oh so human moment when a woman realises she is pregnant – however she finds out. She is in that moment ultimately alone, and possibly quite vulnerable. Its a poignant moment and is repeated thousands of times every day.

    Yes for so many the moments after are full of support, love and celebration but for some, the loneliness remains.

  17. @ Breslin – I think you will find that pregnancy testing these days involve the bodily function of passing urine. I wasn’t wrapped in a towel last time I went to the loo!

  18. Not meaning to rain on anyones parade ,I would have considered the resources could be directed to the abolition of poverty in our country.I think jesus would agree.

  19. Bravo, Kimbo.

  20. The Catholic Action group from Whangarei felt so strongly and righteous that they deemed it necessary to deface the painting and make quite a public showing in the process. Given the size of their “religious” demonstration, one wonders what sort of protests we might see and hear from them now there are these latest dreadful revelations.

  21. Bravo Kimbo +1 – you spoke so eloquently and I would agree with most of your comments and as an Anglo-Catholic [at heart] I’d probably challenge some of your Calvinist proclamations, but I guess that’s what sends us into our various ‘factions’ or different branches of Christianity, but at the same time allows us to live cheek by jowl in relative harmony.

    I would add that in my observations, why is it that it’s almost always the blokes who want to challenge any questioning of how women should think or act on their own accord. It’s the Arthur Skinners of this world who want to control what women do with their lives/bodies and put them up on pedestals if they fall into their particular mind thought, aided and abetted by outdated medieval/male doctrine. I have spoken to more than enough theologians who have given me peace of mind about how a young woman could find herself ‘with child’ 2,000 years ago and wondering about who the father could possibly be – or what fate would she face! Despite that I still love singing the well known Christmas Carols – which speak so eloquently of a long ago era and because I’ve sung in church choirs for many years, maybe I’m equally as fault!

    By the way ‘pjr’ when I worked at the Auckland City Mission we were very involved with St Matthew-in-the-City in the pursuit of abolition of poverty, and I doubt things have changed at all.

  22. @ Richard Aston – I forgot to include you in my ‘acknowledgments’ in my last rambling post. Blame it on a glass of Pinot Noir after an afternoon of Yuletide Gastronomical shopping! I include my bit about the Auckland City Mission/St Matthew’s-in-the-City link to helping the not so well off in our city both spiritually and practically.

  23. I’ve not got a religious bone in my body, but I found the depiction of Mary to be offensive as it was distasteful.

    A fatwa on that idiot vicar, Glynn Cardy’s head.

  24. The Christians are eating themselves. It’s just another cheap Cardy publicity stunt, presumably because it’s time he was the centre of attention again. Ever since the Romans chucked them to the lions, everyone knows Christians are fair game because they just turn the other cheek.

    What a shame the padre hasn’t the balls to depict Mohammed tucking into the Christmas ham, with a caption such as “Thank God for some decent Christmas tucker at last – dunno why I didn’t try it years ago!”.

    Usual disclaimer; I’m an atheist. I’ll be reading Christopher Hitchens over the holidays.

  25. @ Zinc: “Ever since the Romans chucked them to the lions, everyone knows Christians are fair game…..”

    Yeah, I’m all for returning to those halcyon days. I think sometimes you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind.

    @ Kimbo: “As an orthodox Calvinist Protestant…..”

    Does that mean you believe in a small elite (‘The Elect’) making it into ‘Heaven’, and the other 99% burning in ‘Hell’ for all eternity ? All pre-destined and out of anyone’s control ? Very 16th Century !

    Reminds me a little of Neo-Liberalism with its emphasis on a small, ‘special’ elite apparently deserving far greater material comfort than the other 99% due to their alleged “superior talents” (in inflating their own bank accounts). I wonder if Calvinism was a significant influence (what did Max Weber have to say about Calvinism and the Protestant work ethic again ?).

  26. @ markus

    “Does that mean you believe in a small elite (‘The Elect’) making it into ‘Heaven’, and the other 99% burning in ‘Hell’ for all eternity ? All pre-destined and out of anyone’s control ? Very 16th Century !”

    Not quite, and it’s a bit more dynamic than saying, “out of anyone’s control” (that is more a heresy known as hyper-Calvinism”. Wouldn’t want to answer, “yes” to that, anymore than you may want to affirm the statement, “social welfare erodes people’s work ethic”! Also, “heaven” and “hell” need more clarification and definition – and this ain’t the time or place!

    Thanks, Jill Brookes, and Richard Aston. I had a theology lecturer who suggested one of the reasons for the development of the doctrine of mediating saints and Mary herself was because, after the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries, the Church was so insistent on stressing Christ’s divinity, they tended to neglect his full humanity. As a result there was a corresponding loss of confidence in Christ’s ability to relate to our weakness, and to sympathise and bestow grace upon us from his exalted heavenly throne. So the church started grasping for human points of contact with the divine. Obviously the analysis has some Protestant presumptions, but nevertheless the general principle and human need to reconcile the divine with the human remains.

    I’d suggest that Arthur Skinner has made the same mistake, within his belief structure, with the virgin. Whatever else occurred, it was most certainly a real experience of pregnancy and birth.

  27. My old friend Ivan Strahan in Donaghadee has noted with amusement (or perhaps bemusement) that this post was put up by someone with the initials JC. I have assured him that JC stands for Judy Callingham and not the divine blogger with the same initials.

  28. @ markus

    “Reminds me a little of Neo-Liberalism with its emphasis on a small, ‘special’ elite apparently deserving far greater material comfort than the other 99% due to their alleged “superior talents” …I wonder if Calvinism was a significant influence”.

    Orthodox calvinism would stress that election is in spite of the (negative) qualities of the recipients, rather than because of any merit or attration they possess. That and also the burden of responsibility, before the benefits of privilege – “You only of all the nations of the earth have I know – Therefore I will judge you” (Amos 3:2). However, human nature being what it is, the distortion you mention is an all-to-common ethical faling.

    From memory, neo-liberalism in the first instance came out of a Lutheran, rather than a Calvinist setting in the 19th century (I’m generalising!), and was more a result of the influence of the Enlightenment. However, there were undoubtedly aspects of cultural calvinism – the supposed divine favour towards nations which flourished at the time, no doubt both influencing, and being influenced by neo-liberalism – British-Israelism, American manifest destiny, German ‘kultur’, “taking up the white man’s burden”, etc.

    Chuck in a social/national application of Darwin’s new theories, and the 19th century optimism that the Kingdom of God was soon going to be manifest through the works of men was running head-long towards a couple of world wars, and the horrors of the holocaust and gulags.

    A cause to ponder and reflect with humility that even if we think our religious or ideological belief systems are superior to other alternatives, our all-too-fallible human nature has the capacity to misapply them horribly.

  29. @ markus

    Sorry – I confused (theological) “liberalism ” with economic and political “neo-liberalism” which you were referring to.

    Umm – Luther (who had differing ideas on election), rather than Calvin was the first to stress the Protestant work ethic. Was built upon the antecedent of “vocation”, as a means of living a spiritually fulfilled life. Was expressed in his doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers”, so it was actually socially egalitarian. Before the Reformation, only the clergy had a first-class access to God.

    Also, Luther rejected the Roman Catholic penitential system, so that stuck the boot into monastic poverty and asceticism as a means of pleasing God.

    Calvin, had the same stress. Where he criticises those with a crap work ethic, I think he was taking a shot at rich Hugenot refugees who thought they could swan into hard-up Geneva and put their feet up.

    Obviously what happens in the centuries after takes on interesting, and not-always postive directions.

    But it would be interesting to study your suggestion further, and see if there are any strands of “special group status” in the Chicago School. Personally I’m skeptical…

  30. @ Kimbo

    Re: Not quite, and it’s a bit more dynamic than saying, “out of anyone’s control” (that is more a heresy known as hyper-Calvinism”.

    I beg to differ. The ligature of your post is as unmistakeable as you aspire to render it irrefragable; namely, while it is never to be denied that biblical beliefs have a “natural history,” what characterises such beliefs isn’t the history but rather their role in the saving economy of God’s self-communication. In short, this function “is ontologically definitive of the text.” Admitting the assistance that cognate social and literary criticism renders the exegete, you relentlessly prosecutes your thesis: the essence of Scripture (please, capitalise the word everywhere) isn’t one with the ontologies presupposed by cognate disciplines; the ontology of Scripture is unique just because there is no substitute for the service it renders the self-bestowing God who ever remains ontically sui generis and whose self-communication is therefore logically singular. In short, you postulate and sustain your conviction that Scripture is rightly understood only as it is apprehended in accord with its dogmatic purpose, fellowship with the Holy God.

    At the same time your emphasis on pietas by no means denigrates your “hyper-Calvinism” doctrine. So far from Spirit-less bureaucratization, “office” confesses that theology has been appointed to warn the church where and how it is capitulating to an idolatrous proclivity to domesticate the Word. Theology will honour its authoritative office only as is claims no authority for itself but forever points away from itself to that Word whose authority can never delegated, relegated or shared.

    Unflinchingly, you have planted the flag of dogmatic priority concerning Scripture in that citadel whose putative guardians claim every scholarly reason for recognition except the reason: the God who is known only as he reconciles recalcitrant sinners, thereby relieving their blindness. For they are made partakers of that reality which Scripture attests and whose coherence dogmatics exposes.

    I trust this clears the air.

  31. @ Victor Marseuss

    “I trust this clears the air”.

    Yep. I’m familiar with Calvin’s doctrine of the knowledge of God – and you ommitted the crucial element of the quickening ministry of the Holy Spirit, who applies the Scriptures in real life contexts to the hearts and minds of the elect so that they apprehend/are apprehended by means of the genuine human action of faith (not an emphasis of hyper-calvinism, I’d suggest), and in doing so experience God in his true nature within the parameters of the Scriptural revelation. Whew.

    It was that to which I was especially referring to in my discussion with markus – who I would tactfully suggest is none the wiser, through no fault of his own, after your contribution, and for whom you have not cleared he air.

    Also, while you may not be particularly partial to the contribution of Karl Barth, you might want to throw in a few mentions to God’s elective purposes beginning and ending in Jesus Christ. Either way, an odd mention or two of the Son of God wouldn’t go astray if you want to be precise on your orthodoxy. Revelation in, through, by, and to the triune God is the ultimate end of Scripture.

  32. @ Victor Marseuss

    or should that be Victor Shepherd…

    I hope you are not in breach of any copyright! Refer to commandments # 8 and 9!

    All this on the website of one of the first New Zealand resident broadcasters to publicly announce his agnosticism (I assume, Brian, that is how you prefer to describe yourself. I understand New Zealand was a VERY respectable place at the time you made folks choke on their tea watching the tele about 40 years back)

  33. @ Kimbo

    re “I hope you are not in breach of any copyright! Refer to commandments # 8 and 9!”

    While there may be similar inter-textual strands interwoven into the fabric of my post, the completed liturgical mosaic is entirely my own. The similarity is a coincidence — and a trifling one at that, dear Kimbo.

  34. @ Victor Marseuss

    He he he

    Merry Xmas!

  35. Kimbo – well written and interesting stuff. (And I say that as an atheist.)

    By the way, just to clear up a question; which Christian group follows the Holy Shoe and which follows the Holy Gourd?

    (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. So much for being a member of the People’s Judean Liberation Front)

  36. By the way – who’s the artist that painted Mary? Whoever it is, s/he is damned good!

  37. @ Frank Macskasy

    “By the way, just to clear up a question; which Christian group follows the Holy Shoe and which follows the Holy Gourd?”

    You have exposed a glaring gap in my knowledge. Neither of the primary sources of the beliefs of first century Palestinian Judaism, Josephus, nor the Dead Sea Scrolls (technically known as the writings of the Essenes of Qumran, to keep our resident textual critic, Victor Marseuss happy) shed any light.

    Nevertheless, as an astute commentator of left-wing analysis and action you are probably better placed than I to advise which of Labour, Mana, and the Greens attribute their ideology and programme to the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People’s Front (splitters!), and the Popular Front of Judea.

    “What has John Key ever done for us!”

    Merry Xmas/Happy summer solstice, Frank Macskasy.

  38. Bravo Kimbo re: the plagiarism of Victor Marseuss.

  39. Never ceases to amaze me that people still have time to argue about how many angels can dance on a pin-head.

  40. Hear, Hear.

    Merry Christmas to all and sundry.

  41. @ Wake Up: “Never ceases to amaze me that people still have time to argue about how many angels can dance on a pin-head”.

    How true. Discussing theology at any length, is like staring at embossed flocked wallpaper, hours on end. And still none the wiser as to why it should be.

  42. Fascinated to be alerted by Kimbp to the concept of Mary’s “perpetual virginity”. Apart from the improbability of sustaining ones hymen during delivery of a full-term infant, one wonders where Mary incubated the baby Jesus if her womb remained virginal also.

  43. @ Grocersgirl
    “Bravo Kimbo re: the plagiarism of Victor Marseuss”.

    Not quite, my lovely checkout girl.
    Mr Shepherd did email Me, asking My permission to reprint MY article, which first appeared in the June 30 Issue of The Calvinist Quarterly.

  44. @ Victor Marseuss

    “Mr Shepherd did email Me, asking My permission to reprint MY article, which first appeared in the June 30 Issue of The Calvinist Quarterly”.

    That’s funny. I have evey back issue of Calvinist Quarterly, and I don’t remember seeing it. And I do buy it to read the articles, not just the centre spreads of “Reformer of the Month”.

    Merry Xmas, markus

  45. @ Victor Marseuss:

    Ummm….he was reviewing a work published in 2003?

  46. @Darcy Blinkalot: thanks Darcy

    “Myself when young did eagerly frequent
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
    About it and about
    But evermore came out
    By the same door as in I went”.

    – from the “Rubaiyat of Omar Kahyyam”

  47. “Bravo Kimbo re: the plagiarism of [sic] Victor Marseuss”.

    Grocersgirl, by syntax error, makes Shepherd the plagiariser; not Yours truly.

    Merry Christmas to You and our Deft Scanner.

  48. “Merry Xmas/Happy summer solstice, Frank Macskasy.”

    And to you to and yours, Kimbo!