I have no great love for Tesco, certainly not their awful dot com department in Bradley Stoke where I had the misfortune to work for a few weeks back in 2014. Since my bad experience, I have heard better stories about a store that actually does care about its employees and looks after those in crisis. They didn’t give a toss about mine, which is why I have held them in utter contempt for so long, but when I read about the current ‘scandal’ in which they have become embroiled, I felt the need to come out and support them.
The supermarket launched an Easter campaign called “Great beers and cider. Good Friday just got better.” As someone who is partial to a small drink and, on occasions, a large one, here was a campaign and a vision I could get behind. A bank holiday and the opportunity to have a few beers. Nothing to complain about there, then. But along came God.
Well, not God himself, obviously, because he doesn’t actually exist but his remaining supporters who were, of course, greatly offended. Being offended is the default position of religious folk and so it was that the Godwhackers came out in protest.
The Reverend Richard Coles, a vicar and former member of the Communards (seriously!), said the advert was “extraordinarily and unnecessarily ignorant”. Tesco “got it badly wrong” with the “crass” advert said Michael Wakelin, from the faculty of divinity at Cambridge University. It was also a “decidedly poor way of treating such a holy day”. “Tesco are a shower of bastards,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury, “And the next time I shop there I will punch the manager’s fucking lights out.” (I may have made up the last one.)
Good Friday is the day christians commemorate the crucifixion of the alleged Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The devout often mark the day by fasting, avoid eating meat or drinking alcohol. Well, good for them. If having a day off work not eating or going to the local pub floats your boat, I am not going to stop you. It may benefit me too if the religious don’t go to Asda or the local pub because I’ll be served that much quicker. Everyone’s a winner. That is the whole point of the secular society I embrace. Worship the God of your choice or in my case don’t worship any God at all. I won’t tell you not to believe in God so don’t you tell me to believe in one. And stop being offended.
Part of living in a free country is the freedom to offend and the freedom to be offended. You might not like the idea of people like me being attracted to Tesco by the offer of cheap beer on a bank holiday, but that’s just too bad. I am consistent on this matter. I supported the Danish cartoonists’ depiction of the Prophet Mohammad, I support Charlie Hebdo, I support Salman Rushdie. And now I support Tesco.
To most people, Easter is an extended weekend break to spend time with loved ones. Hardly anyone believes in the religious aspect but for those that still do, well I don’t want to stop them. But neither do I want to read a grovelling business-in-mind apology from Tesco: “We know that Easter is an important time of the year for our customers. It is never our intention to offend and we are sorry if any has been caused by this advert.” Play me the world’s smallest violin.
The reaction of a few vicars to the Tesco advert was hardly Charlie Hebdo, but it’s the same slippery slope. No one is telling anyone to buy a few extra cans at their local supermarket, but for many their Easter experience will probably be enhanced by some Thatcher’s Gold.
My advice to anyone this weekend is simple: go out and have a few beers. It’s what God would have wanted.