Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here's what offends the American Church

I'm not sure when certain portions of the American church became so thin-skinned, but you probably already heard recent news that a campaign was started to get a Super Bowl ad banned from a Doritos competition because it was supposedly making fun of Communion.  Here's the advertisement:

Now, first of all, let me say that I know that we Christians, Catholic or Protestant, come from a long line of people who have no sense of humor about Communion.  And clearly the ad is implying something like Communion, although if you watch carefully you'll see that the priest/minister/pastor never consecrates the food and that the marquee outside said "Free Doritos and Pepsi Max Sunday"... meaning that they were using it as an outreach rather than for communion.

If anything it seems to me that this ad could be seen as a joke against modern church outreach.  Let's be honest, if some church discovered that giving out Doritos upped their attendance by 20% they would write an article for Leadership Journal, get a book deal and start doing workshops for the church staff of other congregations about how to market their own Doritos giveaways.

Once a friend of mine and I were looking for communion elements in another country and we could only find blueberry juice and grape drink. We had to choose... which was the best drink to take the place of the wine?

Here's another commercial, one that made it to the finals, which might be offensive to certain naked people from the Garden of Eden:

Alright. You sat politely through my rant. What do you think? Should we be offended by commercials like these? Are Christians too thin skinned or do we let too many things in our culture slide?


  1. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Admittedly I'm Canadian and as such can't speak for the American church. That being said, we do share this section of tectonic plate we call North America and thus share a whole lot of other things too.

    I think it's a real shame how Christians seem to take offense at little things like this that really aren't dangerous in any way. When Jesus was getting brashly slandered and physically beaten he didn't even respond with anything other than "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". What does responding to a lame commercial like this accomplish other than to give the detractors of our faith more reason to detract. Jesus never asked us to pick a fight in his name, if anything he asked us to put our swords down, respond to a slap with another cheek, and to love those who would give us a hard time (if that's what this commercial really even does.

    This particular commercial wasn't even scheduled to air as it wasn't a finalist and as such would never even have been viewed by the general public if those apparently slandered in it hadn't brought it up. Just let it go people. Just let it go.

  2. It's neither wise nor useful to pick a fight about such things, but I respectfully disagree and contend that it is okay, even necessary, that we take appropriate offense.

    Should we rant and rave? No, the church is not here to regulate the world's morals; it's here to transform them one person at a time.

    But should we take personal offense when something holy is profaned? I say yes. Here's why:

    God called his people to holiness and purity, which included differentiating between clean and unclean, holy and profane. When God has sanctified something, we should also treat it with honor and respect. What else did Jesus mean when he said not to give dogs what is holy. There are some things we must consider with greater honor.

    Granted, at its extremes, this attitude could lead to a bunch of mirthless Christians who aren't very fun to be around, but I don't think it has to go that far. We can be lighthearted, but it's worthwhile to consider what honors God and what blasphemes him by not giving him due consideration.

    Will we use the name of the Lord in jest? Will we use our spare Bibles (the translations we don't read anymore) to prop up our wobbly furniture? Will we go skinny dipping in the baptistry? How far is too far? I don't know, but I think that's the wrong question to ask. It can be hard to draw the line between good-natured fun and profaning what is holy, but I think we would be wise to keep asking ourselves whether we're allowing comedy to trump consecration.

  3. What benjskramer said!

  4. I think that love is not easily angered. I also think that the phrase "the American Church" is too monolithic to be accurate or useful. And then there's the issue of, even if you are offended, even if it's for good reasons, what is the proper response? The Gospel should be the most important thing.

  5. I think rather than waste time (and credibility) being offended, we'd do well to look at WHY such a critique of communion is even possible.

    Could it be because WE have allowed the ritual to be emptied of all its meaning? Certainly most Evangelicals I know take Communion about as seriously as the commercial does...

  6. @benjskramer I will gladly count you as an American even though you are from Canada. As my friends from Latin America say, "We're all American, not just you people in the U.S."

    @Caleb... you make an excellent point. And I agree, actually, that we should be able to point out when things have gone too far or are inappropriate. I wonder what the best way to do that is in a situation like this. What do you think?

    @OneBigHappy re: monolithic phrasing of Certain Blog Posts. Maybe someone was more concerned about driving traffic to his blog than about accuracy. Ha ha ha!

    @JR That's an interesting thought. I have actually been surprised by the number of people who have written me on FB or Twitter to say that they've done communion with chips and salsa... I think three different people (for differing reasons... at least one was living overseas and didn't have immediate access to more traditional elements). It reminds me of a story I read years ago about a man in Europe who refused communion because he wasn't repentant about a certain sin in his life... he didn't want to cheapen communion by taking it. Really interesting.

  7. Definitely too easily offended. I'll leave it at that. :)

  8. Anonymous9:13 PM

    I agree with Caleb.

    I am a Christian, but far from a thin-skinned one, and usually shy away from anything remotely traditional and churchy. I tend to tread on the side of Grace in all areas of life. BUT I do take very literally the scripture that says that we are not to take communion in an unworthy manner...which in the literal translation and context means that we don't take the elements (the Blood and the Body) as something flippant. There is also clear scripture that tells us if we are coming to take communion just to eat, we should eat at home and that we need to properly discern the Body and Blood. This commercial was showing a church drawing a crowd as a way that seems to violate this scripture.

    Although the priest didn't pray over the 'elements' or make an announcement that it was the Lord's Supper...the implication was most certainly there, and you don't need to be an ordained minister and a master advertising specialist to see that this was the intended message.

    I was offended by the commercial because of those reasons, but probably would never make a big issue over it, simply because we should expect to be made fun of and persecuted. Doesn't mean I like it. I don't eat Doritos anyway, but if I did, I may stop simply because giving the impression that something this holy can be used to raise funds for a fledgling church is definitely taking communion in an unworthy manner.

    And for the record, using something else for the elements seems all right to me...a friend used a hershey bar and a pepsi....a tribe in New Guinea used water and some local fruit....but it was the manner and the purpose that makes it ok.

  9. pongboy1:21 PM

    I will leave all the deconstructive legalistic diatribe to today's pharisees. These commercials are simply clever and funny! :)

  10. I actually thought they were funny. Confession time: I've eaten Doritos/drank Pepsi while reading the Bible.

    I mean, Christians get so mad when they try to take the Bible/Jesus OUT of everything, and then they get mad when they try to put Him IN a commercial. Personally, I think it's awesome that they made a commercial like that in the world that we live in.

    Christians go watch movies with crude humor and sex scenes and think nothing is wrong about it, even if the actors cuss throughout the whole movie and use God's name in vain more than once. I would get worry more about THAT then I would these commercials.