Hell Pizza, a chain in New Zealand, has angered the Anglican Church over its new ad comparing its limited time offer of hot cross buns, which is decorated with a Satanist symbol, to Jesus.
The controversial pizza chain has put up billboards in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, with a photo of its hot cross bun decorated with an inverted pentagram, which Satanists have adopted as their symbol. Next to the photo of the bun is the tagline, “For a limited time. A bit like Jesus.”
“They [Hell Pizza] join a long line of advertising that’s in questionable taste that slings off things that lots of people hold precious,” said Lloyd Ashton, the media officer of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, according to The New Zealand Herald.
“It’s disrespectful to what a lot of people hold very dear.”
An editorial on Sunday about the controversy in the same newspaper stated that the Hell Pizza ad is offensive even to non-Christians because it is a “gratuitous, if incoherent, attempt at provocation …”
“[It] is hard not to feel some sympathy for Christians, who are implicitly characterized as humorless if they object to the articles of their faith being ridiculed, or at least exploited, for commercial gains,” reads the editorial.
“The tenets of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism would not be so abused – quite possibly because the juveniles who design this sort of thing would not know enough about those religions to make fun of them. But the Christian religion is somehow seen as fair game.”
But Hell Pizza director Warren Powell claims that the company only wanted to spark debate with its ad and did not intend to offend anyone.
“First of all, we’re acknowledging that Jesus Christ may have been on Earth for a limited time,” said Powell, according to the local publication. “Again, it’s a debate. I think if people take it that way then they’re being a little bit single-minded.”
Blogger Bnonn on the New Zealand Christian blog site Thinking Matters surprisingly agreed with Powell that Christians should not be offended by the Hell Pizza ad. He further argued that even if the ad was an intentional jab at Christians, that shouldn’t surprise Christians because the Bible said believers will be ridiculed and mocked for following Jesus.
“If this is the worst New Zealand has to offer in that regard, shouldn’t we be grateful?” asked Bnonn. “Is a dodgy Easter ad campaign more offensive to God than legalized prostitution and the killing of unborn children? I doubt it.”
He added, “Hell is right: Jesus is a limited time offer. Order your salvation today, before this outrageous deal is gone forever.”
New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority has received at least two complaints against the Hell Pizza ad, according to the Herald.
Hell Pizza, whose mission is “Global Domination – one soul at a time,” has a long history of offending people with its controversial and questionable ads. In 2008, a commercial depicting Sir Edmund Hillary – a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist – actor Heath Ledger, and Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon of England emerging from their graves to dance to Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller” was pulled. The ad, posted online two days before Halloween, offended the Hillary family. The philanthropist’s son described the ad as being in “extremely poor taste,” according to Dominion Post.
“I think it’s a bit disturbing … a little grotesque,” said Hillary, who had lost his father just 10 months earlier. “I don’t think it’s funny and I’m not very impressed. It is early days and it’s still pretty raw.”
In 2007, Hell Pizza was behind a billboard that featured Adolf Hitler saluting with a piece of pizza in his hand. The Jewish community was understandably offended by the ad.
Besides offensive ads, Hell Pizza has also drawn controversy in 2006 for giving out 170,000 condoms to promote its “Lust” pizza.