Saturday, November 03, 2007

thought-provoking experiences from an unexpected quarter

This morning I was hit on by a bottle of shampoo.

I turned to grab the shampoo in the shower and was greeted by the all-to-friendly “Hey there good looking” printed across the top, which apparently I’d never noticed before(who really reads a shampoo bottle?).

In our culture, especially in our advertising, it seems that, if I may take a line from Solomon completely out of context, truly vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

I’m reminded of a recent car commercial–-I want to say it was Cadillac, but it may have been some other brand. The commercial comes in two varieties, both with the same dialogue: one where the driver/narrator is male, and one where the driver/narrator is female, and not just any female, but the illustrious Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy fame. Who knows, the fellow may have been a celebrity as well, but Kate Walsh I know.
On each commercial the respective narrator is talking about why we buy a car. ‘The question is not does the car have X, Y, or Z’, they’ll begin, with those being, say, safety or luxury features, fuel efficiency, etc., but instead they conclude the question is “when you turn your car on, does it return the favor?”
Is your car sexy?
Not ‘is your car safe?’, ‘fuel efficient?’, ‘fast?’ even, but ‘sexy?’.

I’m also reminded of an article [link here] about tanning that I read this summer and very nearly blogged on then. Essentially, it says that we may have found a way to fight tanning: appeal to the tanning-bed-goers’ vanity. Tanning may cause premature wrinkling. This is the best we can do. Skin cancer? Eh. Wrinkles? Not that! Being hoary(or for some, simply less dark) is a preferable fate to that.

And why, one may wonder, do advertisers strike in this manner? Why must the doctors fight death-dealing vanity with the wrinkle-fearing variety? I think the answer to these is fairly simple: our own values. In our culture, sexy is important. Hence the tanning, hence Kate Walsh. This is not a revelation; everyone knows it. The advertisers present things to us in a way that makes them seem valuable, and in this culture, our values are pretty vain.

The importance of the shampoo bottle to the Christian comes to light when we ask ourselves(as we frequently should)how am I to live as a citizen of God's Kingdom while on Earth?
Media not only plays off of these shallow aspirations of our culture in advertising, but it is reinforcing them through the messages it sends. This is good, that's not, this is acceptable or to be desired, that, old-fashioned, which is of course inherently bad, etc.; these messages are frequent, often subtle, and indubitably formative on us all. And so we end up with a people of God, a group of sojourners passing through this land with a vocation as the Body of Christ here, finding themselves emersed in this wave a messages that are, well, simply not true. Sex is not the end all of existence, neither is money. Not even personal gain in general. We know this by revelation, but the world still presses them because they are well-received.

Again, this is not new information... but the attack in the shower from Pert Plus was still unexpected.
I write all this to say only that we as the people of God must be vigilant and exercise discernment. There are a great many good things to be explored in culture. However, more than we realize, the messages of superficiality are being conveyed, and from quarters that we'd naturally leave unchecked. So be mindful. Consider things that you're told by the media and products, and try to put these messages into the proper perspective, a perspective where you and all your desires are subject to our sovereign LORD, and to His callings on us, that we seek first the Kingdom, to love the LORD our God, and to love our neighbors.

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