Citing the desire to remain "religiously neutral," German budget supermarket chain Lidl found itself receiving backlash after it airbrushed the symbol of Christianity, from the Anastasis Church in Santorini on its Greek food packaging. Predictably, shoppers were none-too-pleased with this decision and let Lidl UK know their feelings about it. The U.K. spokesman for Lidl was quick to offer the standard "sorry if anyone was offended," apology.
"We have been selling our highly popular Eridanous own-label range in Lidl stores across Europe for over 10 years now, and in that time the design of the packaging has been through a number of updates. We are extremely sorry for any offence caused by the most recent artwork and would like to reassure our customers that this is not an intentional statement. In light of this we will ensure that all feedback is taken into consideration when redesigning future packaging."
According to RTL, Lidl Belgium had a much different explanation at first. We asked Lidl's spokesman for the reason for the withdrawal. "We are avoiding the use of religious symbols because we do not wish to exclude any religious beliefs," replied the representative of the German supermarket giant. "We are a company that respects diversity and this is what explains the design of this packaging."
As the Telegraph says "One can legitimately ask why the marketing departments of the group did not directly opt for a landscape without a religious monument." Good question. If there was a Kosher packaging for Israeli couscous, would they have airbrushed out the Western Wall? Would they remove any minarets from their halal packaging? If that is indeed the case, why not have the art director choose a different and neutral image all together?
The Telegraph goes on to say that "Following the wave of indignation... the Lidl group apologized. "Our intention has never been to shock, we avoid the use of religious symbols on our packaging to maintain neutrality in all religions, and if this has been perceived differently, we apologize to those who may have been shocked," said the spokesman on Thursday afternoon."
Lidl UK's apology suggested they change their packaging all the time and that the removal of a Christian symbol wasn't intentional. Lidl Belgium didn't apologize or mention packaging updates at first but instead claimed they never use religious symbols because they don't want to exclude any religious beliefs. And when the backlash came, so did their "sorry if you didn't get our intention," apology. If they don't want to exclude religious beliefs, why not celebrate them all? Religion has strong ties to food, after all. Because religion, like food, is part of culture.
But in this case Lidl is following the religion known as political correctness. This is a particularly strange conundrum. In order to respect all religions Lidl inadvertently shows a lack of respect. Lidl's explanation was that they wanted to celebrate diversity, by not to showing any diversity. It is a more likely scenario that they were attempting to avoid anyone being offended in the first place, and thought no one would notice. In doing so, Lidl caused a greater offense.
The person I feel the most for is the art director who got stuck with this crummy job. And not to Godwin this article, but given Germany's history of airbrushing people and things out of photos including Christian symbols, this is an all too eerie reminder of the past we'd rather not revisit.