Off-Message: Sacred Stillness and the Super Bowl of Advertising

Before I start this discussion, you should know that I fancy myself a marketing expert. Even though I chose a career as PR girl for Jesus, I like to think I could have made it in the secular ad world, in another life. Like, an alternate route on the space time continuum. I’d have been a feminist Don Draper.

Advertising fascinates me. It has more culture shaping power than just about any other force on the planet. More than entertainment, more than education, more than government…even more than church. Advertising can be boldly prophetic, or it can absolutely feed all of our worst demons and baser impulses. On a more personal level, I can spot a mile away when somebody is trying to target demographic me, and 4 out of 5 commercials, I’m pretty sure I could have done better. I let a bad tv ad bug me WAY more than it should (just ask my husband who has learned to hit mute before I can get started on an “EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA rant); and I appreciate a great commercial as much as a great episode of a favorite show.

That said, you can guess who I’m rooting for when I watch the Super Bowl… The ad agencies! I want to see good ones. I want to see culture shifting images OR, so-funny-cause-it’s-true situational comedy. In 30 seconds or less.

And THAT said, you can guess that one or more of this year’s Super Bowl commercials really pissed me off. No, not the Coke one. But ON THAT NOTE–I keep seeing articles about the ‘controversial Coke ad.’ Let’s be clear about something: That’s not controversy. Controversy involves two sides of a conversation or social issue. Two sides, two arguments, two (or more) points of view on whether or not something is acceptable, or how something should be handled… The Coke commercial, with the multi-lingual rendition of “America the Beautiful” did not have another take, another side, another angle… We are talking rednecks ranting on Twitter. With bad spelling and grammar at that. That does not amount to controversy. That is troll bait. That is ignorance attached to a hashtag. #yourinamerica. It’s apostrophe-r-e, jackasses. Learn English, or get out of my country!

ANYway…no, the one that got me this year was this Jeep thing.

“Stillness is what actually kills us?”

Don’t get me wrong, I like the get-off-the-couch message of this clip. Yes, the clock is ticking. Yes, your life is happening right now. If you don’t like it, you should change something, and soon. Yes, there’s a big wide world out there we should go see. But stillness…stillness is sacred.

I spend lots of time trying to convince other people of this truth, while also trying–often in vain–to practice it in my own life. Stillness, quiet, meditation, solitude…these things are spiritual disciplines. The animal within us will rant and rail against that knowledge our whole lives long.  If we don’t learn the art of listening, and the power to just be…well, then we find ourselves a people who don’t know how to rest; who don’t know how to be present with our families or practice gratitude for what is; who end our lives spent and exhausted, never having experienced our humanity in the fullness we might have known, with just a breath here and there to take it all in.

Being the amateur/wannabe ad man that I am, I’m not a bit surprised that a huge corporation put out a message that is counter to the practice of faith. What does disappoint me–on a regular basis–is that we choose our battles so poorly. I’d bet you any amount of money that a lot of the #yourinamerica ugliness came from those who’d call themselves Christians. Others shake their heads at implied sexual content and nudity (hello, David Beckam. I mean, ALLlll of David Beckam!) And still others are aghast when a same sex couple, a stay home dad, or an interracial family (you go, Cheerios) appear on the screen. Those people don’t look like me! I want my country back!

But let Monsanto try and get all inspirational about the travesties they’ve wrought on our food supply…and I haven’t heard much outcry about that.

Stillness…we should all try it sometime. Maybe if we did, we’d know what really mattered. We’d know real ‘threat to our society’ from perceived threat to entitlement and patriarchy. Maybe in stillness, we’d learn to seek the holy in little every day ways, instead of wracking up a lifetime of stuff and things. In stillness, we could see ourselves–and others–as the full and wholly sacred, created beings that we are…and not the target demographics for the sellers of stuff and things.

Stillness is sacred. Jesus told the stormy waters to ‘be still.’ A voice tells the psalmist to ‘be still, and know that I am God.’ And God spoke to the Israelites at the water’s edge, as Pharoah’s army bore down on them; and said “The Lord will fight for you. You have only to be still.”

In fact, scripture speaks to stillness far more often than it speaks to homosexuality (6), or the silence/role of women (2), or the sin of speaking the wrong language IN AMERICA (exactly zero. Look it up). Maybe that should tell us something?

Perhaps that we’re watching too much t.v… Which, really, is all that the Jeep guys were trying to say, as well.

#irony

Stillness, kill us? Never. In stillness, we are born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...


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