February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
The venue is being prepared. The teams have been set. The hype is beginning. Parties are being planned. High definition televisions are being bought. Recipes are being passed around. Massive spreads of high-calorie food will be laid out for all to see. People are buying gear and clothes for the big night to support their favorite teams. Football fans are excited to watch the culmination of the 2010 regular season. But even people who don’t watch football are tuning in, because the spectacle of the Super Bowl is upon us. Celebrities sing the national anthem. Rock and pop stars put on halftime shows, which may or may not titillate. Being such great spectacle and having so many eyes turned toward the television sets, the event also is a showcase of talent, not of athletes alone, but of the advertising elite.
While Super Bowl XLIV’s (that is, the Super Bowl in 2010) ads were not all that extravagant, after all in the midst of an economic recession some advertisers need to back off, there were still massive amounts of money spent trying to drum up desire for various goods: cars, foods, computers, beers, and more. The Super Bowl is grand social ritual, particularly with regard to the ads. The game might be good or it might not. Just about everyone though will be talking about the ads the following day.
Since 2007 one company has been inviting people to make their own ads and compete via popular vote to be aired. Doritos has been hosting the Crash the Super Bowl competition and has been providing highly-rated ads. This year however, one ad in particular has rankled more than a few feathers. They have confused their ritual with another.
In the ad, Feed the Flock1, a production company Media Wave Productions, portray an ailing parish with mounting bills and declining numbers. To remedy the situation, the pastor prays and receives the auditory sign of chips crunching and a pop bottle opening. Being so enlightened he begins offering Doritos and Pepsi Max in a ritualistic meal. Some have claimed that there are subtle clues that this meal is not Holy Communion, but this commercial is meant for the Super Bowl. Subtlety is not what most people are expecting. Understandably many were upset. Most of the voices were Roman Catholic, but Anglicans, Lutherans and others could easily have voiced their protest. At any rate the protest was significant enough to pull the ad from the competition. It will not be aired. This move is not surprising.
What is interesting about the whole situation is that this ad is a reversal of the typical Christ-culture debate. There are plenty of ways that the Church, in its very broad sense of many traditions, has engaged culture, using the tools and means available so that culture is in many ways embraced. Every tradition has ways that it engages and uses culture. But here, in an attempt to peddle its wares, the culture has embraced Christ, or at least the Church. Sort of.
While traditions have differing views of what is happening in the sacrificial meal begun by Jesus, there is some ecumenical agreement. In the 1982 World Council of Churches statement Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, one reads “The eucharist is essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian receives this gift of salvation through communion in the body and blood of Christ. In the eucharistic meal, in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, Christ grants communion with himself. God himself acts giving life to the body of Christ and renewing each member.”2 This sacrificial meal is the continued self-giving of Christ to the Church and a sign of the Reign of God breaking into this present age bringing “a new reality which transforms Christians into the image of Christ.”3
In this ad, however, the sacrament is seen as a good to be consumed that feeds upon earthly desires, and that brings self-satisfaction rather than communion with Christ. Christians are transformed into Christ’s image as they partake. The ad viewers are transformed too, into consumers where everything serves their desires. The ad also portrays this food to be a source of unity within the human family. All sorts of people come to be fed by the chip and pop meal that feeds human desires. There can be no doubt that the ad company sees itself as the true source of unity in humanity. They exist to create desire. Their work seeks to unite the wills of those who will be fed. It could be understood that their work is sacramental in many ways, but not in the sacrament of the Church. This ad projects the production team’s desires upon the reality testified by the Church, however weakly. A keen eye will see that they are simply showing what they wish to be.
While the Church has shown all too often the desire to fall into lock-step with the world, their greatest desire should not be money, even if money issues must be taken into account, but communion with Christ. It is the ad world that seeks after money primarily. It was reported that the production team claimed they did not mean to offend, only to win4 . They want the flock to follow them. They want the monetary gain. This ad is a picture of their sacramental worldview with themselves at the center.
The Taizé community sings “Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in me and you will not thirst.”5 The ad company wants us instead “Eat our chip. Drink our pop. Come to us and never be hungry…” as long as you can pay us.
1 If one would wish to view the ad in its entirety, it can be viewed here: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1125919467?bctid=738215119001
2 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1982, p. 10
3 BEM, p. 15
4 Faith & Reason, Cathy Lynn Grossman, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2011/01/super-bowl-doritos-ad-catholic-offensive/1
5 With One Voice, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1995, #709
Brett David Potter