Today and yesterday there was a lot of media coverage (e.g. Fitz, ABC news in the US, Herald Sun, SMH, Daily Mail) of the hot air balloon that an Australian gambling company sent flying over Melbourne. Based on the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro
It looked like this:
Depending on who you ask, it was some harmless fun, just promoting the World Cup and trying to encourage the Australian supporters not to give up on their team. That is was not actually promoting gambling (surely that’s a bit of a stretch with the company logo so prominent on the balloon). At the other end of the response spectrum it was an incredibly insensitive thing, associating Jesus with gambling.
The social media response to the balloon was certainly mixed, as it ever is. For what it’s worth, the hashtag chosen seems to have a broad variety of comments, not just those related to the campaign, so perhaps it needed a little more work.
There were plenty of prominent Christians quoted, but the sound-bites that made it through were about the Jesus who turned over the tables of the money changers, and that Jesus would be against gambling as it was exploiting the poor. It seemed a bit of a missed opportunity to talk about the Christian message more broadly, so I thought I’d have a quick go.
The reason Christians make such a fuss about Jesus is tied to those things that we believe about him. That he is God’s Son, that he came to earth to die on a cross (the iconic gesture of outstretched arms we see on the hot air balloon), and be raised back to life.
Why? People were not living lives that were up to God’s standard, and so God intervened so that the relationship between God and people could be restored. Someone who wants to become a Christian asks God for forgiveness through Jesus’ death, and then, having been forgiven by God, seeks to demonstrate gratitude to God by living a life in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.
It’s at this point that the anti-gambling message would come in: gambling would be among the less sensible things that can be done with money, and promoting gambling tends to encourage the people who can afford it the least to allocate more of their money than they can afford, with a hope of getting a giant windfall.
There was a lot of hot air spent on the balloon, but on the positive side, a giant Jesus in the sky is surely an excuse to talk a little about the Christian message.