Super Bowl Free Book contest

I wanted to post this days ago, but my youngest daughter—Marissa, age 13—was in the hospital. She has had chronic pain issues for a couple of years now, and this latest episode was a hard one. So I got behind in the blogging plans.

Still, here’s our offer. It’s gonna be fun, and it gives us an excuse to give away a free book or two. My good bud Sam Van Eman has written (as I hope you know by now since I have cited it here, and named it in my December Best Books of the Year column at our website) the great little guide to cultural discernment, On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope (Brazos Press; $14.99.) In it he not only affirms God’s good gift of stuff, and the artistic and human qualities of good and wholesome advertising of said stuff (this is a good world, after all), but he also goes after the ubiquitous commercialization of everything and how advertising can be deforming. He explores the dangers of consumerism and helps us “see through” the assumptions and values in typical advertising. Crass materialism, though, is just the tip of the iceberg—Sam helps us discern other values and worldviews that are implicit in the stories advertising tells. He gives spiritually-shaped insight into how to critique the messages found in ads and invites communal discussion about how to have a Christian worldview solid enough to not only understand the deeper views that come through the ads but how to resist them. It is a book that we all—unless you live in a cave–really need. And we really need it this month.
Over the next week, offices, dorms and dinner tables will be full of talk about which Super Bowl ads were most enjoyable, clever, fun. Last year we even went to websites and reviewed some of them as we talked about them as a family. I must say, though, that as much as we are committed to an “in the world but not of it” sense of righteous cultural engagement, we didn’t get very far in discerning the deepest and most implicit ideologies of the best ads. We complimented the talent of the best, and moaned through those with explicit tackiness, sexism or crass vibes of hedonism. But the deep and discerning wisdom that Sam invites would have come in handy last year. Even if we are aware of this stuff, it is amazing how seductive these great ads can be in shaping our view of life, and our view of ourselves, our needs, our identity.
AND SO: we announce the first (and maybe last) Hearts & Minds Super Bowl Ad Discernment Contest. Write and post a brief (please!) paragraph or two offering some sort of ideological critique and cultural discernment as you “read” the ads offered during the Super Bowl today. The one or two (if more than two participate) that seem to show the kind of insight and evaluation that Sam commends will get a free copy of his book. We will send it out next week, no strings attached. If you’ve got it already, you can (obviously) give it away to someone who needs it. All of us live in this media-drenched, commercialized and global economy. How can we live up to our high calling in Christ to be people who are prophetic and resistant to the ways of the world? How can we move “from comercial hype to gospel hope”? Maybe On Earth As It Is In Advertising can help. Get your free one by offering your take— not necessarily on your favorite ad, but the one you are best able to evaluate and offer some faith-based cultural criticism about. Have fun. We’re eager to see if anybody posts anything. The free book awaits.

8 thoughts on “Super Bowl Free Book contest

  1. Man, a free book for the taking and no entries yet!! I’m game.The FedEx commercial seemed to me to be very evolutionary in its worldview. No neandertals in Genesis!The Budweiser refrigerator commercial clearly sprang from an occultish worldview with its references to a “magic” fridge and some pagan worshiping ritual at the end.There was one commercial that I only saw muted, but it appeared to show some cowboys ogling a nude dancing sheep. I don’t know about this worldview, but I’m guessing its just the next logical step down from Brokeback Mountain into sexual deviancy.There was the flag football game which at first I thought was touting a worldview of violence against women, but then the woman fought back, so I guess it was actually in favor of a radical egalitarianism that wants women in combat (or in the NFL? I couldn’t tell).The ad where the guy zapped a fly with the defibulator was the most difficult to discern. I think it was about not being judgmental (the tag line was don’t judge too soom), but to be honest, I didn’t really get it. There was an add about it being better to work with chimps than donkeys, and that is specism in my book. Very bad.The ad with the best worldview because it was Platonic was the one about the baby horse pushing the carriage which extolled the virtue of the noble lie.

  2. Discernment of ads must start from asking the question: what are ads for? At their most basic level they are telling buyers what they are selling and giving a few reasons that buyers should go out and buy a particular product. Now people are more multi-dimensional than this definition would give credit for, which is why the element of entertainment and fun, and ultimately imagination come in. These qualities are able to stir in people the attitude necessary to identify their own needs and wants, and the attitude need to get into action to buy things (remember ads only ÒworkÓ if they get people into action and buy things). You canÕt fault Beer ads for using scantily clad women, at least in respect to being able to point out a human desire and maybe even call people to action. Where these ads go wrong is that they are not directed at the particular and the physical. Humans are finite creatures. We were made that way. So, while beer ads point out our desires, they fail to be able to show us the way to direct our desires so that we can love God and neighbor. In fact, they often hinder it by making others into abstractions, rather than celebrating the satisfaction of those desires in the particular and the physical. Marriage gives us a creational context for sexual intercourse. Watching women on TV makes light of our finitude and makes us less human. It misdirects our desire away from relating to women in a good away and toward buying a product that has nothing to do with that particular desire. A better beer ad is to show a community of friends socializing and enjoying the blessing of leisure time that they have received from God (I think the ÒwazzupÓ ads of past Superbowls, get at this). So, what was the best Superbowl ad of 2006? Probably the Beer commercial with the animals playing a game of football, and the shorn sheep streaks through the game, to the amusement of those watching- even the farmer. (Now its not perfect, because it personifies animals but it is amusing that if animals can joy in creation, why canÕt we humans do the same, donÕt the Psalm mention this). Hopefully more Christians will find their way into making good ads that will point to proper fulfillment of desire and use their imagination to direct us toward godly buying chooses and a little fun and entertainment while we learn about how to be in creation. ps Ð I have the book already, but IÕm sure I can find someone to give it to.

  3. In response to -How can we move “from commercial hype to gospel hope?”Simple. By laughing and delivering the punch-line.Historically, it has always been funny when man rails against the gods. Or tragic.It’s always one or the other. But we’re in a sort of god-free period. We’re down to the corporation or the dollar for our gods. When these gods attempt humor through commercials, it comes across absurd Ð of course. Which can still be funny, albeit strange.One of this morningÕs more disturbing news items detailed the latest deaths in the ongoing demonstrations against the funny cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad. Which is an instance of the tragic side of this coin.Like the Sierra Mist commercial demonstratedÉ comedy has become laughing at the things weÕre not supposed to laugh at. Commercials like this one elicit an out-loud guffaw Ð or an inward recognition of the sad truth of evil in our world and how we deal with it. HereÕs where the gospel hope comes in, by way of ChristÕs supreme Ôpunch-lineÕ. That surprise punch-line at the end of the three day pause.The resurrection broke truth into our world, defeated evil and introduced a new type of life. This new Ôpunch-lineÕ life is not cynical, hopeless tragi-comedy. And our laughter at this punch-line spills joy and hope into a world overflowing with absurdities and violence.ItÕs up to us to deliver this punch-line life again and again Ð with a sense of timing that comes from the holy desire that wants our viewersÉ to somehowÉ get it. We need to do this without becoming absurd or violent. Something the church has struggled since the Super Bowl was held in the Coliseum.+Aaron Kunce (our prayers for Marissa)

  4. Ooooh. A good start. Very interesting. Yes, yes, read that Romo piece.Caleb: My daughter was happily reading on line the latest offering from The Onion when I told her about your tongue-in-cheek reply to my earnest invitation. I asked her if she thought it was nasty. She replied “It’s hilarious.” But she reads The Onion, so what to make of THAT? Thanks for the send up. BKB

  5. Hehheh! Your daughter is a princess among women!! Must come from Beth.More seriously, did you notice the anti-work/pro-work amalgam threading through the commercials when taken as a whole? Work is viewed as some alien territory where we don’t really understand what goes on and things happen with a frightening randomness; we can escape this through a combination of turning our “real” lives over to a managerial elite who “get” the things we don’t and escaping into a techno-magical world of false striving/contests/realities.

  6. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Very impressive observations, worthy of more than a free book.I talked to one guy in the store today who told me that his faith just helps him have fun during these times but he dislikes the vulgarity. I don’t think one needs to be a philosopher to think more deeply about these not so hidden presumptions, and for some, this is very new territory. You insight is helpful to us all.How’s that new baby?

  7. Baby is doing well after a month of difficulty. He spent 9 days in the hospital with a respiratory virus, and Ann stayed with him the whole time. But both came home safe and sound about a week ago.Thanks for asking!

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