Tuesday, March 28, 2006

And even more about the UCC Ad

If you haven't seen the new ad that the United Church of Christ is releasing next week, you can check it out here.

Songbird asks below in the comments whether I like the ad or not, and I started to reply there but it started to get too unweildy, and too long and started to feel like a post of its own, so I'm doing my best to form an answer here.

Do I like this ad? I've watched it a dozen times at least and my answer is....well, yes and no.

Yes, I think it is effective for the medium of television. Like things that are made for tv, it moves fast and has strong images in it. I don't think the premise is too confusing. I also don't think it's too violent - it seems pretty clear to me that it's supposed to be ironic. You may be disturbed by some of the imagery, but those disturbing images are supposed to be memorable and maybe even humorous. And since the whole point of TV advertising is to hit you with memorable images, many of which are just as disturbing as they are humorous (I dont know about you, but I'm still having nightmares about that frozen red-white-and-blue guy from the car commercial they played 6587 times during the Olympics) then I think it's doing what it should be.

Would it make me want to go to church, if I wasn't already? Well, it's so hard to say. I was never damaged by church when I was kid, or when I was a young adult struggling with my sexuality, or when I was a woman seeking ordination. Church has always been a good and safe place, it's only danger being that it might have bored me to death back in the uber-intellectual 80's. So I don't think these ads would shake me personally by the shirt front and say "get thee to one of those churches" if I wasn't involved already, but that sort of doesn't matter because it's not really for me, you know? My husband, on the other hand, who WAS damaged by church as a kid (at least a little) and who DOESN'T go now, loves the ad and finds it hilarious. And he's who it's for.

Speaking of which, I know what you mean about the "all the people" ad, Songbird. That one brought a tear to my eye the first hundred or so times I watched it, and it makes me so proud of who and what we are. But the UCC website says somewhere (shucks, cant find it now) that although UCC members loved that ad, it didn't make even a blip with the people it was supposed to reach, which is the rest of the world. So although it makes us feel great, it doesn't do the job, which is to talk "television-ese" to people watching television, and therefore, also watching the ad.

All of which raises a bigger question to my mind, as does the call by the Office of Communication, which I have reprinted below, about equal access for mainline denominations on the airwaves. The question is: Should we even be on televison? Does it even matter? Again, the best I can come up with is both a yes and a no.

Remember when Paul says that he'll speak like a Greek to the Greeks, like a Roman to the Romans and etc? I think as progressive Christians, we have too long ignored that aspect of evangelism. Also, we've been so appalled by the hijinks of conservative televangelists, and so determined not to be like them, that in some cases we've thrown the baby out the with the bathwater.

But how do we get in there? They won't even take our money to run these ads. (We're not the only ones, btw. They won't take paid ads from the folks who do Buy Nothing Day either.) We are very scary, friends, to some kind of powers that be. When we talk about getting people together instead of pushing them apart or when we talk about inclusivity and love instead of making war as primary Christian values, that is just totally antithetical to all that television is trying to do, which is to scare people into staying home and buying things from the Home Shopping Network in order to feel safe.

Let me be clear here, in case you didn't get it already. I really hate tv - we dont have one at our house (except during the olympics when we borrow one) and I'm pretty much astounded that so many people would submit to the commercial onslaught that is such a huge price to pay for the limited entertainment value of most television programs. (Full disclosure: I, do, howeverturn on the Home and Garden network pretty much the minute I get to a hotel room!) Anyway, it's becoming clearer that business as usual is not working - our churches are shrinking, blah, blah,blah - and we need to start speaking a different language, one that will make it clear that progressive people of faith are relevant. And there's some power in taking the tools of empire and using those very tools to dismantle it.

So that's a long answer to a short question. How about you? Do you like that ad?

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