Che to promote the church

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THE BEARD is the same and so are the fierce eyes. It is only Che Guevara's beret that has been replaced - by a crown of thorns.

The Churches Advertising Network (CAN) yesterday unveiled its campaign for Easter, which borrows the image of the Latin American Communist revolutionary and uses the slogan "Meek. Mild. As if. Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4."

The posters were condemned as "grossly sacrilegious" by Harry Greenway, a former Tory MP who sponsors the Conservative Christian Fellowship. "I feel extremely strongly about this and those who are in any way responsible should be excommunicated," he said.

CAN is an ecumenical body that uses advertising professionals who give their services free. One such is Chas Bayfield of the agency HHCL, who dreamt up this campaign and the controversial "Bad Hair Day" one two years ago which carried the caption: "You're a virgin, you've just given birth, and now three kings have shown up. Find out the happy ending at a church near you."

Mr Bayfield said yesterday that he was proud of his creative efforts. He listed the parallels between Jesus and Che Guevara, who helped Fidel Castro to overthrow the Cuban dictatorship 40 years ago. "They were young. They were idealist. They were angry. They wanted change for the better. They died for what they believed in," he said, adding: "Jesus has the edge in that his revolution did not die."

The Rev Tom Ambrose, secretary of CAN and a vicar in the diocese of Ely, said the campaign was designed to challenge the Sunday school stereotype of Christ. he said it was an "attempt to get away from the kind of nerdie figure of Jesus with blond hair and a white nightie. Jesus was a revolutionary figure... he was not ineffectual and was crucified exactly because he was revolutionary."

But there was one potential problem, he said. "There is a danger that people will see the poster and expect something radical from their local church, which might not be what they will actually get," he said. "We cannot control the product. Christianity is not a tin of beans."