To paraphrase John Calvin, Madison Avenue has become a perpetual forge of idols. Here’s the quote from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:
Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. There was a kind of renewal of the world at the deluge, but before many years elapse, men are forging gods at will.
The marketing geniuses have managed to make the football game itself a sideshow. My guess is that most of the 100+ million who will watch the Super Bowl next Sunday aren’t all that interested in the game itself. For years now I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t really care about the game, I just like the commercials.” Sentiments like that must drive true football fans nuts. <grin> Ask a few people which teams played in Super Bowl 47.
People will prepare special festive meals and gather around their glowing high-definition altars to receive their commands – to understand what is required to be part of the “in” crowd. It’s a confirmation ritual, a profession of faith in consumerism – a communion of sorts where Doritos are the bread, Pepsi is the wine and we all partake together in America’s true church.
The Super Bowl wouldn’t bother me at all if it were simply a championship football game. But it seems that the same mentality that drives people to run into the shopping malls on Black Friday like Pavlov’s dog is driving this event. I can’t even believe this but this year corporations are putting out teasers or trailers for their commercials to get the saliva
of their well-trained servants flowing – to create some pre-game buzz. Only in America could people make what used to be a chance to hit the bathroom or grab some more food the focus of this all-evening event.
With seven days to go until Super Bowl XLVIII, advertisers who are dropping an eye-popping $4 million per 30-second spot to shilling their wares in front of TV’s biggest audience — typically in excess of more than 100 million viewers — have taken to releasing online “teasers” for their commercials more than ever before.
The practice offers fans and critics alike a chance to get a sneak peek at the pricey ads without completely ruining the fun, as they have in the past when entire spots have leaked onto the Internet.
I shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed by any of this. I have no plans to watch the game next Sunday – it really doesn’t interest me. As one who has gotten pleasantly used to not having cable television I can say that the thing I like most about not having that in my home is that I’m no longer bombarded by incessant, annoying and quite frankly stupid commercials. I do not derive my value from association with a brand. Like Paul I try to use the things of this world without being engrossed in them.
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I really think I’m to the point where I need to be done with sports in general, especially sports that hold their biggest games and events on Sundays. Why do football leagues, golf associations and NASCAR – among others – have to hold their showcase events on Sunday? Could they not hold them on Saturday? I’m trying hard to do things differently
on Sundays as they are still the Lord’s Day. Even Madison Avenue cannot change that. God’s law still stands for Christians and we have not been asked but rather commanded – with promises of curse for failure – to honor the Lord’s Day and keep it holy, separate, different than the other six days of the week. For the Christian this is not optional, nor is it simply a suggestion for your best life now.
…for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; Exodus 20:5b
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46
I’m trying not to be judgmental here and accuse everyone who follows sports of being a heretic. I’ve spent many a Sunday on the couch watching NASCAR races, baseball games, football games and a whole bunch of other stuff. God doesn’t hate sports. Paul used many sporting references in his letters. “Run the race…” “Keep your eyes on the prize…” There
is a time for everything under the sun and I guess what I’m saying is Sunday is not the day for these things. “Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” I used to believe, as many today do, that the Sabbath is simply a time for recreation – for doing whatever we really enjoy. The Sabbath is the day
when we cease from all our normal labors in order to worship and interact with the God who loves us, whose Son died for us. Resting has physical and temporal blessings and God knows we need those, but there is a deeper need we have – our souls need to be fed regularly.
Is not He who formed the ear
Worth the time it takes to hear?
Should He who formed our lips for speaking
Be not heeded when He speaks? Will You Not Listen, Michael Card
What I’m trying to say is we need to reflect a bit on what animates us, what excites us. If we can so easily turn our backs on the God who commands us to set aside one seventh of our week to Him, perhaps we’ll be told that He has no time for us when we die or Christ returns. That should concern us greatly. I’m trying to get to a point where my desire is to
consecrate the Lord’s Day to Him; not the attitude that well, I’ll go pay my penance and suffer through another church service so I can feel less guilty about getting down to what really excites me later in the day. If Christ’s perfect obedience and his atoning sacrifice for us mean so little, we need to ask for His help. I’ll know I’ve arrived when I can have the Sabbath and any other thing set before me and choose the Sabbath.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10-12
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]” Matthew 21:12-13
American Express used to tell us that “Membership has its privileges.” God’s Word promises us that obedience has its blessings. They are not for everyone. They are reserved for those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Consumers are driven and restless. Christ’s flock is led and at peace. The Lord’s Day prepares us for eternity with God.
Will you be ready?
There’s another deeply pernicious facet to a consumer-based economy: our identity and meaning now flow from consumption, not from production or inner resources.
The marketing complex has hijacked our sense of identity by engendering a deep, soul-destroying anxiety that only buying more stuff can assuage: since we are judged and valued solely by our purchased externalities, we are constantly in danger of being rendered worthless if we fail to measure up to the current metric of brand-group identity (wearing all black and a tattoo for one “brand,” a BMW and designer clothing for another, reading the New Yorker and claiming to only wear vintage clothing for another, etc.)
What we do in the real world is simply part of the “brand” which we must project, or cloak, to sooth the gnawing anxiety that is the bedrock of a consumer society. The iconography and totems of consumerism define our identity, our strivings, our sense of purpose and our experience of meaning: what I call the politics of experience, a phrase coined by R.D. Laing.
May we repent of our dependence upon materialism, consisting of brands, products, styles, entertainment, fictional worldviews, fictional story lines and narratives that detract from the glory of God by the way we operate in life. May we find our identity in Christ alone, His person and work in the Gospel, not any of the aforementioned results from materialism. May we find our identity in who He has made us and what He desires for us, namely, holiness. Praise Christ there is hope for the lost and self-absorbed materialists. May we be a witness to a world absorbed in self and consumption as the meaning to life.