New Zealand billboard with Joseph, Mary in bed draws fire

Laid-back New Zealand is not widely known as a hotbed for Christian controversy. Perhaps this seems too stereotypical, but the first things that come to mind are kiwis and the spectacular scenery from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

That changed, at least briefly, when an Anglican church posted an eye-popping billboard up in the capital city Auckland shortly before Christmas. The billboard, which is shown in this BBC story, depicts Joseph and Mary (with a habit on) lying in bed under the sheets below a caption: “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.”

At least some locals weren’t so laid back.

According to The Washington Post, brown paint was splashed on the billboard within five hours of it being put up. A second billboard with the same image suffered a knife slash and was stolen.

The archdeacon of the church which posted the billboard said his congregation believes Jesus was conceived by Joseph and Mary, not by the hand of God.

Certainly this would rankle many Christians as being so opposite of the traditional biblical account (Luke 1:26-38).

“To make Joseph look like some kind of wimp or inadequate is so derisive and disrespectful, it’s beyond belief,” said Lyndsay Freer, a spokeswoman for the Auckland Catholic Diocese told the Post. “To believers, it’s blasphemous.”

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