Finding the Sacred in…..Commercials

Since this one won’t be found in print anyway, I went ahead and made it as link-heavy as I wanted…..Come on, Alice! We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date!

The Superbowl was watched by a record breaking 114.44 million people this past Sunday, making it the most watched event in human history. 1/3 of the country was watching the same channel—NBC, who got to reel in $4.5 million dollars for every 30 second commercial. It is difficult for me to find how much money NBC paid to broadcast the Superbowl this year, but I suspect it would be part of the $28 BILLION dollar contract NBC, CBS, and Fox made with the NFL (a non-profit organization o_O) in 2011 for nine years of broadcasting rights. Needless to say, it is all a very lucrative business, and companies advertising in the Superbowl want to put forward the most attention grabbing material they can to make an impact on the viewers. They never fail to do that! In fact, most of those 114.44 people end up talking about the commercials as much as the game. As most of us know, the Nationwide insurance company used one of their $4.5 million dollar spots to depress us about kids dying in accidents. The ad drew criticism, and was also lampooned by the sarcasm brigade. 2548831800000578-2937129-Another_meme_Mr_Smith_s_photo_sparked_an_array_of_Nationwide_the-a-10_1422920774162 The Nationwide commercial was followed by a Weight Watchers commercial that made me pause mid velveeta cheese dip and look down on myself with disappointment. I read that some Creationists were freaked out by John F. Kennedy’s words in a Carnival cruise line commercial speaking about “coming from the water, and returning to the water, etc. etc.) I’m no creationist, but I would say to them (if they cared about intellectual consistency)—read the book of Genesis—where does the first chapter say it all begins? Watery Chaos. Besides, I thought it was a beautiful commercial. Isn’t that a weird thing to say? “A beautiful commercial?” Perhaps that statement reveals that I sometimes think I missed my “true calling” as an ad-man—ala Don Draper. No—you don’t have to necessarily envision Don’s moral ineptitude when making that mental comparison. When Don Draper pitches the Kodak carousel in the finale of season 1—boy, that’s one for the ages.

I want to PREACH LIKE THAT, MAN! “Good luck at your next church shopping visit.” LOL
It’s true though—I love a good commercial. I frequently make up jingles for asinine things, and I don’t know if everyone has this same “gift,” but I seem to have a freakishly good memory for commercials throughout my lifetime. In fact, when I was a college chaplain at Occidental College in Los Angeles, I used to lead a little discussion group called “Spirituality in the Age of Consumerism.” It really seemed to strike a chord with the otherwise religiously uninterested student body. One “practice” we did was the “commercial purge” where we tried to basically write down the commercial taglines and jingles floating through our heads and then figure out who was being motivated by what. It was all very refreshing. Ever seen this game in the store? There’s no point in me buying it, because I would absolutely crush anyone I played, and then no one would want to play it with me anyway.
All of this rambling brings me to the point—one of the best commercials I can remember in my vast catalogue of remembered commercials—is in fact a metaphor for our enterprise as a people of faith: discipleship. It involves the moment of clarity—the recognition of the need for something more (in our story, that’s grace, or a meaningful life—in the commercial it is a burger that sizzles.) Anyway—in the spirit of this post Superbowl week, I thought it would be fun to share.

I enjoy how, along with the moment of recognition, the hero of the commercial feels compelled to tell others about his recognition. That’s evangelism! And then the band of merry disciples marches in the opposite direction away from the pit as you pan up and see other people attracted to the message and saved from meaninglessness. Oh, it’s so good. In short—conversion (attention caught), repentance (turning around), evangelism (telling others) and sanctification (moving in the right direction, gathering others as you go.) To be honest, I sometimes see Paul wearing those red Wendy’s braids in my mind’s eye as I hear him writing to the early church  The one with the guy being roused from the drone-like activity of kicking a tree is pretty hilarious and “theological” too. Enjoy!  I hope this inspires you to not “cut any corners” in your own faith life.