"Lust" is now taboo during the Super Bowl

ford_superbowl.jpgThe past few months have been strange at the intersection of faith and advertising, beginning with the big three networks’ rejection of the United Church of Christ’s TV spots and continuing with Rolling Stone‘s temporary rejection of an ad promoting a new gender-inclusive version of the Bible.

Now Ford Motor Company has withdrawn an ad it had bought during the Super Bowl, after protests by members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Stuart Elliott of The New York Times explains:

The withdrawn commercial, by the Dearborn office of Young & Rubicam, part of the Young & Rubicam Brands division of the WPP Group, was intended to introduce the Mark LT, a successor to the failed Lincoln Blackwood pickup. In the spot, an actor dressed as a clergyman finds a key to a Mark LT in the collection plate after services, then covetously appraises it in the parking lot — only to learn from a congregant that it was a prank by his mischievous daughter, rather than a donation.

The spot ends with the clergyman posting “Lust” as the theme of his next sermon.

“Our members find it offensive,” David Clohessy, national director of the advocacy organization complaining about the commercial, said before the withdrawal became known. His organization is called Snap, for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Mr. Clohessy, who commented after watching a version of the commercial on a Web site about Super Bowl advertising, superbowl-ads.com, complained that the actor was dressed as a Catholic or Episcopalian priest and described the child, an actor about 6 years old, as looking “shy and compliant.”

After learning that Ford Motor had withdrawn the commercial, Mr. Clohessy said the decision would “spare a lot of people a lot of pain.”

“We certainly understand that people can interpret the ad in different ways and we never alleged maliciousness,” Mr. Clohessy said. “But anything that avoids rubbing salt into a deep wound is good.”

Ford’s decision has led to outraged posts on the superbowl-ads.com message boards (sample topic: Pride and Christian idiots).

As the Chicago Tribune notes, one prominent Catholic doubts the ad would have rubbed salt into wounds:

Other groups who joined SNAP in their displeasure were the Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful and StopFamilyViolence.org. Feminist groups were expected to join the protest Thursday.

But at least one religious organization said it was baffled by the idea that the ad was connected to the abuse scandal.

“To say that it trivializes and exploits the sex scandal is absurd,” said William Donahue of the Catholic League. “In short, it does no one any good to read into this silly ad malicious intent on the part of Ford/Lincoln.”

The San Francisco Chronicle provides this link to the ad, which seems to have disappeared. (Truckblog offers this link, which it says will work if you allow popup windows. No success for me, but maybe it’s a Mac-hostile site.)

lincoln ad.jpgA few observations:

• Would there be any irony in an Episcopal priests — the vast majority of whom are not bound by vows of celibacy — feeling lust for a vehicle? The implausibility here is that any theologically correct Episcopal priest would yearn for an ostentatious and gas-guzzling Lincoln Mark LT pickup. A sporty Toyota Prius would be another matter.

• The ad shows a pastor changing a sign at an unspecified “Community Church,” which meets in a white elephant of a building suggesting the worst of post-Vatican II architecture. But as we’ve noted in this space before, ugly church architecture is no respecter of denominations. Might any alert GetReligion reader help us figure out which church rented out its property for the ad?

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  • JoJo

    Why do you refer to the TNIV as “a new gender-inclusive version of the Bible”? It is gender neutral in passages that refer to humans, to be sure, but there’s more to the revision than inclusive language alone. Just seemed odd.

  • http://www.restacrosstheriver.blogspot.com Andy

    I don’t see why Catholics OR Episcopalians would be upset. It’s clearly a Presbyterian church. More to the point, it’s either the First or Second Presbyterian Church of Aurora, Ill., from the movie Wayne’s World 2. (The gag was that the two identical buildings were situated across the street from one another.)

    Whether it’s a real church or a studio prop, I don’t know.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    You rock. OK, film fanatics. Who can get us a digital cell to prove this!

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc


    I refer to the TNIV as the “new gender-inclusive version” because that’s been the central focus of the public debate about this version for several years. I wrote two stories about it for Christianity Today in 1997:



    I’m well aware that other revisions are involved in the TNIV, just as they have been throughout the history of the classic NIV.

    In other words, I described it that way because I am a journalist who remembers stories I’ve written before — or, sometimes, stories written by other journalists.

  • http://www.touchstonemag.com/tniv.html Christoher

    JoJo and all,

    For the many reasons why the TNIV is most unacceptable to Orthodox, Catholics, and many orthodox protestant (orthodox-with-a-small-o) Christians, see:


  • Molly Douthett

    It’s too bad that past sins have been so incompetently and/or incompletely and/or ineffectively handled that an attempt at humor to sell a car falls flat. What next? No more farting horses?

  • Molly


  • JoJo

    “…because that’s been the central focus of the public debate about this version…”

    The furor about gender-neutral language in Biblical translation still seems largely irrelevant to your mention of the TNIV in this post. The story is that Rolling Stone magazine rejected an advertisment for a Bible. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s far more topical to note that the TNIV is a contemporary language translation by an evangelical Christian organization, and that the book is targeted for young adults? Chris doesn’t like the TNIV and neither do I, though for different reasons. Presumably you object to it also. But that’s beside the point.

    And back to the original point, it IS a shame to lose some humor because of unintended awkwardness for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Can’t say that I ever would have made the connection between the commercial and the scandal.

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc


    You presume incorrectly. My reporting for CT was widely and correctly understood as being sympathetic to the new version of the NIV. I have no fights to pick with Zondervan or with the TNIV. If I had a fight to pick, I would do it openly and clearly.

    I mentioned this detail about the TNIV as an aside. I never intended for this post to prompt a discussion about the TNIV. I would be perfectly happy for this TNIV thread, which I did not launch, to reach its conclusion.

  • Tom Breen

    Boy, I never thought I’d see the day when Bill Donohue is urging everyone to calm down about an allegedly offensive ad depicting a clergyman. Makes me think that Clohessy and Co. are grasping at straws.

  • http://tim.2wgroup.com/blog/ Tim (Random Observations)

    Regarding the church. It’s from “The Graduate” — where Dustin’s character locks the Christians in the church using a cross.

    You can see a photo of it at:


    The specific photo I’d direct your attention to is this one:


    According to the page, it’s the “United Methodist Church of La Verne, 3205 D Street at 11th Street, La Verne, north of Pomona, CA.”

  • http://tim.2wgroup.com/blog/ Tim (Random Observations)

    Here’s another page featuring a photo of the church and further information:


    You can see the two decorations on the front, which have been added since “The Graduate” was filmed, as well as the wheelchair ramp which also appears in the above photo but was in the film.

  • McGregor

    The commercial doesn’t make any sense unless the minister in question has some type of car fetish. To label the sermon topic “Lust” when it should be “Envy” shows Madison Ave’s ignorance of the 7 deadly sins. But why do I expect otherwise?

  • http://www.ad-awards.com/home.php Ted

    Commercial is available here if you haven’t seen it


  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    Many thanks for the tip, Ted. No other site I had tried would work.

  • Marion R.

    I am very suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the Ford ad. On several occaisions in recent days I have heard people mention that they had been included in email threads where the ad was attached as an mpg. I suspect the whole thing, including Ford “pulling” the ad, is nothing more than a viral marketing campaign.

    (Of course, that makes me a useful idiot for posting this.)

  • Molly

    Well, after watching the entire lame exercise that was the Super Bowl (excluding the game which is keeping with the recent trend of actually being a GAME), I’d say the Ford commercial would have been a welcome zing to make sure America was still awake. Even the Simpsons was dull.

  • Cathy


    That is because the best commercials where band… Go to http://www.ad-awards.com/home.php and watch this ford lincoln commercial that is being discussed then watch the bud light band commercial…. very funny. We as a country are becoming dull…