In an ad purportedly meant to encourage children to attend Sunday school, the National Church of Iceland featured a bearded Jesus with breasts, makeup and a dress dancing under a rainbow.
After receiving backlash, the church removed the ad from social media — but not busses — and released an apology. However, the church also argued that it believes “it’s okay” to depict Jesus as a woman, transgender or anything else.
The animated ad, which depicts Jesus as having breasts and jumping around as he points to a church, was posted on the church’s website and Facebook page on Sept. 11, according to the Daily Mail, which reported that the post was deleted after it sparked outrage.
However, Iceland Monitor reports that the ad continues to appear on some buses.
The ad campaign cost the church about $14,800, which was contributed mostly by the bishop’s office.
Facebook users objected to the ad, according to the Mail.
One comment read, “There was a reason I left the National Church and found another Christian congregation.” Another read, “Shame on the bishop!” Some called it “tasteless” and “particularly stupid.” Another user wrote, “The church should be ashamed for humiliating Jesus like this.”
The church, known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland and considered the official Christian church in the country, apologized, saying: “The 2020 Assembly of the National Church regrets that the picture of Jesus in a Sunday school advertisement has hurt people. The goal was to emphasize diversity, neither to hurt people nor shock them."
Further, Pétur Georg Markan, media representative for the church, sought to explain why the ad was used.
“It’s just as important for us to bring attention to diversity as it is to respect the opinions of those who don’t like this representation of Christ,” he told the Monitor.
“In this one, we see a Jesus who has breasts and a beard. We’re trying to embrace society as it is. We have all sorts of people and we need to train ourselves to talk about Jesus as being ‘all sorts’ in this context,” Markan said. “Especially because it’s really important that each and every person see themselves in Jesus and that we don’t stagnate too much. That’s the essential message. So this is okay. It’s okay that Jesus has a beard and breasts.”
Guðrún Karls- og Helgudóttir, a minister of Grafarvogskirkja church, was quoted as saying: “Each person interprets something in this picture. Some people interpret it as a trans-Jesus, others as a woman. Some see Mary with a beard, and others see a genderqueer person. Views within the church are just as diverse as elsewhere.”