Addendum to my post about advertising

I did not expect that post to stir up so much interest!  Apparently I hit a nerve with many people.  Hopefully enough people will become outraged over false advertising that they will complain (e-mail is great for that!) and business and advertising professionals will become more honest in promoting their products.

I have a colleague (who I also count as a friend) who teaches marketing/advertising (both, I think).  I know him to be a man of integrity who teaches his students to be honest.  What I fear is that once they get out into the business pressures on them will force them to compromise what he taught them. 

It’s similar with pastors.  Often they get taught good theology at seminary and then cast it aside under pressure from their congregants.  (E.g., They are taught about the promise of the resurrection in seminary but swith to emphasize immortality of the soul [without mention of resurrection] in their pulpits especially at funerals.)

My colleagues/friend has a book coming out next month entitled Shiny Objects where he critiques American consumerism and seductive advertising.  I can’t wait to read it.  I’ll blog about it here as soon as it is published.

I do think a Christian can work in the advertising industry, but I think he or she will face enormous pressures to compromise truth.  I just hope and pray they will be able to withstand those pressures and put out quality advertising that isn’t manipulative or dishonest.

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  • Tim Reisdorf

    “Shiny Objects”

    Excellent Title. If the content is as good as the choice for title, it will be a fantastic book.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    I’ve heard pastors jokingly say that they are in “Sales” as opposed to being the in the “Complaint Department”. Yet, there is a point here as well. Many have noted how we are all in sales as Christians.

    You may be the only Bible some people read.

    You composed a post not long ago about a person who wore a shirt that confessed that he killed Christ. It is a marketing tool. Maybe one that we’d prefer not to use, but the intent is right on. We are all selling something or at least sending out various signals – we can’t much avoid it. So we should stick to honesty and integrity and kindness in what we are selling and how we sell it.

  • I am delighted that you are blogging on this topic! There is no reason for evangelical Christians to join the rest of America by sitting passive while lies roll across their TV screens and computer screens.

    My wife must surely get tired of hearing me talk back to misleading ads! It all started with an English teacher in high school who taught us to analyze TV advertising. Are they telling the whole story? What are the assertions they are making, and do those match the facts? Etc.

    Christians need to wake up and start thinking about what they are told both at church and on TV. Then there are the social media, which can really be fantasyland in relation to reality.

    In a postmodern age, politicians and corporations have certainly caught on to the idea of selling their narrative and pretending that any other narrative is a lie. When the famous fathers of postmodernism said such people were using their narratives to gain power, I must sadly say they spoke truly in too many cases. (Though I hate the strong form of postmodernism.)

    But we do not have to fall for it! Using critical thinking and analysis, we can penetrate most of these schemes. If we are going to follow Jesus and tell his story, we are going to have to use the brains God gave us! Plus read good blogs like yours!


    • rogereolson

      Agreed! And isn’t it part of the church’s job to help Christians be discerning about the messages being thrown at them daily? I think so. Is any church doing that? My wife also gets irritated when we’re watching TV together because I can’t stop myself from commenting critically on the ridiculous commercials that at least imply if not outrightly say that if you buy such-and-such a product your life will be so much better. Rarely is that the case. I also get irritated at all the ads for hospitals. Who’s paying for all that advertising? We have two non-profit hospitals in this town that compete with each other for patients’ dollars. I suspect we are all paying for all that advertising with our insurance dollars.

      • The Anabaptist congregation I go to on Sunday evenings regularly (in the sense of “not uncommonly”) includes a deconstruction of recent popular advertising during the sermon.

        • rogereolson

          Sounds like a church I’d enjoy! 🙂

  • I am in charge of marketing for a small academic publisher. When my previous boss found out what my new position was, he laughed. His exact words were, “How can you be in marketing? You can’t lie!” And he was dead serious…Well, I’ve been here 8 years, and I still don’t lie. We sell good books; there’s no need to lie about them. We just make sure people are aware that they exist. Once they do, they buy them if they need them for their research.


    • rogereolson

      Good for you. I said there are exceptions.

  • Tim Reisdorf
  • Roger,
    Good to see this issue addressed. I took interest in your comment about the effects of congregational pressure on pastors. Of course, that works “both directions,” as it were. What Evangelicals may forget is that there are a whole lot of pastors (I’ve heard from a number directly and read about more) who honestly believe a lot more liberally (e.g., re. critical analysis of Scripture, authorship, authority, etc.) than they feel free to teach. Often, they actually feel they dare not teach what they really believe, nor key facts that led them there (yes, pretty “objective” things historically or otherwise that led them there). Some go on this way for most or all of their career; others quit in frustration.

    And it’s not always via coming straight out of “liberal” seminaries. I know of a number (probably tip of the iceberg) who moved from orthodox to some kind of heterodox or even unbelieving (for lack of conceiving a good alternative, in my view) DURING their time in ministry. And personally, I’m grateful that few orthodox/conservative pastors will preach fully what they believe at funerals, especially if the deceased showed no indication of being a believer…. Not a good time to throw out to grievers what to me is speculative theology, at best.

    • rogereolson

      I don’t know if this is what you’re thinking of, but I don’t consider the resurrection speculative theology. It’s firmly based on the New Testament.

  • James T

    For most of my adult life I have attended upper class suburban churches, some mega, some neighborhood. I have never heard a sermon on hyper-consumerism. When I give a message on this the point I try to make is, even if we can afford something, that doesn’t mean we can buy it. We are called to deny ourselves. We too often mistake American cultural values to New Testament Christian values. Too bad.

  • Thanks for the reply, Roger. Sorry I wasn’t clearer. While I do find there are lots of problems with how people tend to weigh the supposed evidence from “eye witnesses,” etc. re. the resurrection, I agree it is clearly claimed in the NT (in some manner, though the “facts” of it and the post-resurrection appearances are extremely muddled).

    So I wasn’t thinking of that so much as the beliefs around salvation and the afterlife–particularly for most Evangelicals and conser. Christians, that souls go either to heaven or hell, eternally. And that is, of course, generally thought to be based on “believing in Jesus” (variously defined, and impossible to measure, for oneself even), being born again (conversion choice and/or experience), or similar concepts. The “need to be saved” in a certain manner and “eternal punishment” or reward are the speculations I referred to more specifically. But they are tied to many others, such as the foundation issues of whether or how anyone can even tie God’s authority and veracity to the Bible; to individual books of the Bible (you know the issues here of course, as to collecting and authorizing a canon, textual transmission issues, which are NOT small or inconsequential, etc.). So it’s layers of speculation, not any one area or issue.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Hi Howard,

      If you are worried about the layers of speculation, then nothing that anyone says concerning God could be given unqualified belief. I will admit that some of the layers of which you speak are somewhat uncertain in my mind – especially concerning the formation of the Canon. Yet, feeling the need to have some firm ground under me, I do my best with it and move on. The initial issue of the thread was the resurrection. That was foundational to the early Christian Church. Paul gave no indication that it was speculation on his part. And while there might be many parts of this I don’t fully understand, I trust that God uses the Bible (and my efforts in study) to help me understand what He has to say. What else can I do?

      If a pastor at a funeral felt uneasy about the resurrection, or felt the weight of speculation of so many of the foundational parts of Christianity, then I’m not sure he would have anything to say at all. Not very shepard-like, methinks, in most circumstances.

  • Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the remarks. I want to address several of them, but be brief so will not develop the supporting points unless you ask (or someone does).

    At to “some firm ground under me,” I realize that concern is common and major for many Christians. In my own case, by movement away from orthodoxy was 1) set up by a lot of study of psychology (though in a very Evangelical setting for the first lengthy–and longest period), 2) accompanied by learning about a wide variety of theologies (later), and 3) in the latter stages, eased by even broader studies that allowed me to see “firm ground” on other bases (maybe different “continents,” as it were) and retain trust in the grace of God (now defined similarly to the God of Process, however) .

    Indeed, Paul seemed quite certain about resurrection, but has very, very curious constructions if he was a believer in the empty tomb concept and in a truly physical resurrection… re-read him carefully, including the precise construction and Greek terms used in I Cor. 15. 3-8. It’s so easy and tempting to read that into Paul, when it makes better sense otherwise.

    As to your last section, from an orthodox point of view, I see what you are saying. However, there are other frameworks or worldviews within which your comments don’t hold. Within some of them are strong lines of evidence (not proofs, just as biblical concepts are not) that there ARE reasons to feel no sting in death, no victory for the grave. Rather, as in Christianity, good reason to believe death is the doorway to another, “higher” plane of existence. These evidences exist quite well apart from whatever support might be added to them from some interpretations of the Bible. The field of NDE studies–quite massive anymore, if Christians would be interested to check–is just one of them. (And D’Souza’s work on that is woefully inadequate, btw. Check Pim van Lommel, among others.)

    • rogereolson

      What in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 raises questions about Paul’s belief in an empty tomb? Elsewhere in the chapter he calls Jesus’ resurrection existence a “soma pneumatikos”–spiritual body. I think most informed orthodox Christians would be hesitant to call it a “physical body” because that implies something grossly material–like a resuscitated corpse that will simply die again. But that Jesus was, in his resurrection existence, a spiritual body in no way undermines belief in the empty tomb. Orthodox Christianity has always said that his resurrection was a transformation and not a resuscitation. The body was changed and left the tomb and the grave clothes it was wrapped in.