Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A Toronto-based soft-serve ice cream chain known as Sweet Jesus, whose logo features an upside down cross, is trying to expand into the United States where it is getting a frosty welcome from American Christians who are determined to teach them the difference between “edgy” and offensive.
The New York Post is reporting on the company which is supposedly named after a comment their customer’s make when they taste their ice cream for the first time. Founded in 2015, it has 19 locations in Canada and one outlet in Baltimore with plans to open at Minnesota’s Mall of America this summer.
However, their plans to expand have run into some unexpected snags such as the refusal of many American Christians to embrace an outlet that uses satanic imagery and offensive depictions of Christ in its marketing.
For example, as the Post reports, “The company’s marketing and branding includes an inverted cross, instead of the ‘t’ in Sweet, and the ‘s’ replaced with the symbol of a lightning bolt, which some observers say is the ‘satanic ‘S’ used by Hitler’s henchmen. A company advertisement of a nativity scene replaces the baby Jesus with an ice cream cone. The company has also promoted bottled ‘holy’ water, and made fun of a rosary.”
PJ Media reported on a campaign designed for the chain by Olivia Seibutis that featured pictures of ice cream alongside Christian-themed phrases such as “Eat like it’s your Last Supper” and “Everyone has a cross to bear. Yours won’t be hunger.”
As a result, the company is off to a very rocky start in the U.S. and is now forced to try to explain itself.
“Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief,” the company says on its website. “Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems, Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.”
Nonsense, says Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “Its aim is to offend. Indeed, if what they say is true, then let them sell ‘Sweet Jesus’ ice cream absent the satanic symbols, restoring the ‘S’ and the ‘T’ to their proper place.”
But they won’t, at least not according to Jeff Young, chief development officer of Sweet Jesus’ parent company, Monarch and Misfits, who claims we Christians “just don’t understand the brand.”
Oh but we do, and savvy American analysts say they better “tamp it down” if they expect to get anywhere in a U.S. market that is dominated by well-known franchises such as Baskin-Robbins, Dairy Queen, and Ben & Jerry’s – none of which rely on inverted crosses and mockery of Christ to sell ice cream cones.
“It sounds like they are receiving blowback in the United States that they did not get in Canada,” said Josh Merin, vice president of international affairs at the International Franchise Association in Washington, DC, to the Post. “The company is left with some choices — whether to adjust so it does not offend people or . . . decide this is their brand and [push] forward with it.”
Andrew Richmond, co-founder of Sweet Jesus, responded with a statement in which he said the company won’t back down, and the brand will be unchanged.
“After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change,” he said.
Richmond added: “Sweet Jesus is an honest reflection of our experiences and that of our customers, and how they react when they try our product. In our experience, the majority of people understand that we’re not trying to make a statement about religion.”
It’s unclear where this “majority” is located, because on-line petitions and boycotts are now progressing into the serious range. CitizenGo has collected well over 10,000 signatures in its petition against the company in which petitioners are demanding an apology from Richmond for misusing the name of Jesus and mocking Christianity.
“You have openly attacked the Christian community, and you have openly attacked God,” the petition states. “I am asking you to immediately change the name and branding of your franchise to eliminate every instance of mockery toward our Lord Jesus. Until such time as you apologize and change your name, I will boycott your business, and I will call on all my friends and family to do the same.”
The company is also said to be “fending off furious phone calls” as it continues to publicly insist that it won’t back down.
Donohue is calling upon Christians to “send the purveyors of this demonic message a Christian message of their own: boycott Sweet Jesus.” Contact: email@example.com
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