OPINION: Christians embark on a fresh crusade

Of course, it was The da Vinci Code that started it all. Partly because of the global success of Dan Brown's novel, and partly for more serious reasons of divided faiths and communities in the UK, religion is currently big news.

Accordingly, PR operations behind the main Christian churches appear to have moved their operations to a higher plain. National print and broadcast news editors report a veritable deluge of ecclesiastical communications. In our secular age where ancient religious divides are suddenly to the fore, many of them are making front pages and lead items on broadcast news and discussion programmes.

Take The Times. In the past fortnight its front pages have been led by two stories of app­arently immense religious and historical import. The first noted that Catholicism was set to become the dominant religion of Britain for the first time since the Reformation. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England & Wales noted that ‘churches which were declining are now bursting at the seams'. The Church of England spokesman, on the other hand, was on the back foot asserting that the Anglican church was not declining, merely remaining static in the size of its congregations while those of the Catholic church were growing.

In PR terms, one nil to Rome. The coup de grace, though, came a few days later. Also splashed in The Times, a story based on carefully constructed leaks suggested that merger talks could lead to a Catholic and Anglican union. The under-spin was clear: Rome was set to regain the religious dominions so spectacularly lost to the libidinous Henry VIII.

The Anglicans' PR counterblast came with highly publicised utterances backing the traditional family as a domain for child-rearing, and a warning, tailor made for the Daily Mail, that movie sex and violence were threatening the fabric of society. Previously, Canterbury had appeared off the PR pace with its utterances expressing anguish over the sexuality of its clergy and the role of women. Both were perceived as debates that had either moved on, or on which Anglicans were failing to show leadership.

All this Christian publicity activity comes, of course, against a backdrop of powerfully communicated messages from the Muslim and Sikh establishments. The debate may be healthy, but surely in these times there may be danger in too much religious promulgation on the front pages.

On the other hand, maybe it's a great opportunity for powerful brand PR. After all, it has been reported that the Pope prefers Prada.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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