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In a campaign “geared towards reaching a younger, more diverse demographic by showing the cooler and more welcoming side of the Catholic Church”, the Archdiocese of Brooklyn has targeted Williamsburg with advertising, presumably to attract more hipsters.

So here is Jesus, a regular on the L train, ministering to . . . whom? What doors are always open, subway doors? There is a disjunction between the headline and the image. I’m just confused.

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Or am I just not getting it? Is there a mystical relation between the words and image? Is it a relation between the Father and the Son? In the beginning was the word. And Jesus was God’s son sent to Earth.

I’m confused because the history of western art wouldn’t be what it is without the Catholic Church. For centuries the Church has commissioned outstanding images of piety, devotion, grandeur, and glory to illustrate the life of Jesus and visualize the doctrines of Christianity and the Church. These artworks inspired, enlightened and informed the laity, and fill countless museums around the world today.

The golden age of Christian art is well over. Now, the Catholic Church runs ad campaigns. It’s demonstrating to those who have presumably left the church that they are welcome to return. It is trying to be hip and relevant to your life again. It is an attempt to regain its footing after the media, and consequent financial, disaster the Catholic Church has undergone the past decade as revelations (apt word here) of decades of harboring child molesters in its ranks has diminished the numbers of followers of this faith. So bring in an agency and let’s spend some media dollars out there to get our message out. Unfortunately, it is a deeply perplexing message, unlikely to produce the intended results.

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