A bakery chain in England named Greggs has found itself in hot water after replacing Jesus with a sausage roll in a manger scene. The offending picture was part of an ad for the chain’s advent calendar. The uproar was swift, and Greggs quickly apologized, claiming that they meant no harm. In the face of the mounting criticism and even calls for boycotts, Religion News Service has jumped to the defense of Greggs with a ham-handed attempt to justify replacing Jesus with a sausage roll.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Religion News Service, the website says of itself:
RNS is an independent, nonprofit and award-winning source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, reported by a staff of professional journalists. Founded in 1934, RNS seeks to inform readers with objective reporting and insightful commentary, and is relied upon by secular and faith-based news organizations in a number of countries. RNS is affiliated with the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
If the connection to the University of Missouri doesn’t cause you to raise your eyebrows in annoyance, this opinion piece by M J C Warren defending Greggs should do the trick.
An image with three wise men reverently surrounding a golden sausage roll in a manger, caused quite an uproar.
— Religion News Service (@RNS) November 19, 2017
After giving a few details about the controversy, including some links to the backlash, Warren lectures,
However, what might not be apparent at first glance is just how appropriate this debate about Jesus-as-sausage-roll is in light of the Gospels — and the Gospel of John, in particular. Although the Gospel of John doesn’t describe the nativity scene that we find in Luke and Matthew, it is a Gospel intent on describing Jesus as a food.
If Jesus as bread and meat is biblical in its origins, it might be surprising to see that the outrage over these claims is not unique to the current uproar around the Greggs advert.
The Gospel of John first describes people’s disbelief of what Jesus says – they doubt he is the bread he claims to be. But the real outrage comes when Jesus declares that he’s made of meat, and that people should be eating him. Even his followers, his disciples, have trouble with this: When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” Jesus, seeing that what he’s said has offended them, doubles down on his claims – and some of his (nameless) disciples decide to leave him.
Not unlike the current furor over Jesus the Sausage Roll, the Gospel of John depicts uproar and offense at Jesus being compared to food. It seems that comparing Jesus to food has a long history of causing outrage, then, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong – the Bible itself recognizes both the comparison and the ensuing offense.”
Warren then concludes, “Paradoxically, then, Greggs has actually provided a scripture-inspired vision of the nativity that Christians often complain is increasingly absent in the run-up to Christmas.”
It doesn’t take a religious scholar to see that Warren has stretched Jesus’ analogy to the point of being thinner than phyllo dough. The marketing team at Greggs didn’t have in mind any of Jesus’ words when they concocted their blasphemous ad. For RNS to read a strained interpretation of the Gospel of John back into Greggs’ decision to replace Jesus with a sausage roll is the worst kind of revisionist history. No doubt, Greggs will probably be more confused at RNS’ explanation of their ad than they were at the original uproar the ad caused.