Thousands of Christians have signed petitions to boycott the Canadian ice cream chain “Sweet Jesus,” accusing the company of committing blasphemy against Jesus Christ in its name and advertising.
“The message is clear: ‘Sweet Jesus’ is all about trashing Christianity and mocking the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ,” reads the message promoting a CitizenGo petition with nearly 9,000 signatures (emphasis original). “Blasphemy is the order of the day at a Toronto-based chain of ice cream parlours.”
Founded in 2015 by Andrew Richmond and Amin Todai and owned by Monarch & Misfits, “Sweet Jesus” has nine locations in Canada and one in the Washington, D.C. area. The chain also has nine more locations set to open across Canada in coming months.
“Sweet Jesus” defends its name on its website. “Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief,” the chain insists. “Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems, Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.”
Complaints go beyond the name, however. Various marketing campaigns have twisted Christian doctrines into marketing slogans, which have arguably gotten rather out of hand.
One campaign, designed by Olivia Seibutis, featured pictures of decadent ice cream and various Christian-themed phrases both clever and offensive. The ice cream is presented as “The answer to your prayers. And your next two meals.” Another message reads, “Everyone has a cross to bear. Yours won’t be hunger.” The third? “Eat like it’s your Last Supper.” Each of these ads includes the words “glutton for pleasure” beneath the “Sweet Jesus” logo, with the “t” in “Sweet” in the shape of an upside-down cross.
The CitizenGo petitioner shared a photo that no longer appears on the “Sweet Jesus” website. The image features a cup of ice cream in the place of the baby Jesus in a Nativity scene — under the roof of a stable and the Star of Bethlehem.
One final ad perfectly summed up the Christian complaint against “Sweet Jesus.” The ad showed a golden cherub holding one of the tablets from the Ten Commandments — upside down! — with the message, “Thou shalt not take the LORD’s name in vain,” and a cloud beneath it reading, “But God damn, that’s delicious,” with “delicious” composed out of ice cream.
This image hit the nail on the head. Not only was “Sweet Jesus” acknowledging that one of the Ten Commandments orders people not to take God’s name in vain, but the company was flouting its flagrant violation of that commandment.
“Choosing the name of our Lord for a brand of soft-serve ice cream is totally offensive and revolting,” the CitizenGo petitioner declares. “Even if this were some innocent faux-pas, it would still be unacceptable! However, this is anything but a mere mistake. Both in their promotional materials and menu selection, it is plain to see that Richmond and Todai have every intention of mocking Christ and Christianity. If anything could qualify as ‘hate speech’, this is it!”
The actual petition runs as follows:
Mr. Richmond, Mr. Todai, and everyone at Monarch & Misfits,
I am calling on you to issue a public apology for misusing the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and mocking Christianity in your company’s franchise “Sweet Jesus”.
You have openly attacked the Christian community, and you have openly attacked God.
I am asking you to immediately change the name and branding of your franchise to eliminate every instance of mockery toward our Lord Jesus.
Until such time as you apologize and change your name, I will boycott your business, and I will call on all my friends and family to do the same.
Another petition, on Change.org, has acquired nearly 500 signatures.
“We, as Christians are deeply offended by the name of a new Ice Cream chain of stores calling themselves Sweet Jesus. This is a mockery of taking the Lord’s name in vain and also highly offensive to Christians,” this second petition reads. “The imagery used to promote the brand is also anti-Christ and therefore anti-Christian, for example, using upside down crosses on the labels of the ice cream cups” (emphasis original).
“It is time for Christians to take a stand against the Anti-Christ agenda, clearly now in open season against Christianity,” the petition continues. “If this Ice Cream chain is permitted to keep the mocking and blasphemous name of Sweet Jesus, what is next? We are calling on not just Christians, but anyone who is against religious discrimination to take a stand against this brand until the name is changed so as not to be offensive to and until such time as it does not discriminate against any religion.”
Signatories of this second petition also pledged to boycott the chain.
Why are Christians so offended by the misuse of Jesus’s name? Christians consider Jesus Christ to be God, to be the second Person of the Trinity. Besides the flagrant violation of one of the Ten Commandments, “Sweet Jesus” involves insulting and belittling the name of Jesus, a reversal of Philippians 2. In that passage, the Apostle Paul recounted how Jesus humbled himself by becoming human and dying a gruesome and humiliating death.
“Therefore God highly exalted him, giving him the name that is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Paul wrote.
Belittling Jesus’ name involves an attack on God’s justice. According to Christian theology, Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world and he rose from the dead to show God’s ultimate victory. The exaltation of Jesus’ name is God’s ultimate proof of the Christian ethic, that it is better to serve than to be served, that he who humbles himself will be exalted.
No company can defeat God’s promise to Jesus about his ultimate exaltation, but that doesn’t make “Sweet Jesus” and its ads any less offensive for Christians in the here and now.