Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March Madness

A couple of days ago I watched some of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament online. Since we don’t have television I don’t have occasion to see many advertisements and so when I do see them it is easier for me to view them from a distance and think about them.

Among the advertisements I saw during the game was for an automobile. The setting was the downtown business section of a city. Tall buildings, professional men and women on the sidewalks moving with an air of importance, affluence, knowledge. They had countenances which projected, “What I do is important. What I know is vital.”

A few automobiles are seen on the street, but no one takes notice. Presumably the pedestrians are absorbed in the deep space of the business world and cannot be bothered with noticing passing vehicles – or acknowledging each other for that matter.

Then it happens. A car with stylish contours and “lines” appears. It is silver, has a sleek front end, sparkling chrome, and is driven by another professional-type person, a man who hopefully is paying more attention to his surroundings than the pedestrians have been – we wouldn’t want to have an accident would we?

Suddenly the pedestrian professionals are delivered from their isolation, they are beamed back to earth from deep business space, they leave their mental and emotional cubicles, and they behold (drum roll) the CAR!!!! The CAR stops and as it stops the people are drawn to it, drawn from their contemplation of balance sheets and income statements, drawn from their meditation on that afternoon’s marketing presentation, extracted from the depths of company politics, even jerked away from adoring the new title on their business cards.

The CAR draws all to itself as if every cell phone, Blackberry and I-Phone have been magnetized and are drawing their owners to the sparkling CAR. “What model of car must this be?” the announcer in effect asks. Is it a Lexus, a BMW, a Cadillac, a Mercedes?

One can only wonder whether the shepherds had a comparable reaction to the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus when they said, “Let us go and see this thing.” I hope they did – I hope they gave this advertisement some competition.

How can the driver of the car stand all the focus? No doubt he is basking in the attention, soaking it in – if only his friends could see him now, hopefully some of them are in the crowd and recognize him. If only Mom and Dad could see him now, they’d know he had “made good.” If only someone was videoing this supreme moment of life so he could share it at the next holiday party – but why wait for the holidays, let’s put it on YouTube.

The crowd gathers around the CAR, admiring its well-defined lines, its glistening grill, its headlights reflecting light from the sun. No one remains on the sidewalks, no one continues on his own way, all are coming to the CAR. What of appointments that will be missed? What of deep space business contemplation that must be left undone?

I wonder if when Peter, Andrew, James and John left their nets to follow Jesus that they did so with the alacrity demonstrated by these men and women leaving all to behold the CAR?

Have any traditional pagan crowds ever adored a traditional idol the way these important men and women adore the CAR? The power of the image not only draws the men and women on the street – it draws the viewer of the advertisement. The image of success, the image of sex, the image of knowledge, the image of wealth, the image of fame – how many images can we find in this advertisement? It is an idol with many faces projecting itself on millions of willing worshipers, and perhaps millions of unwilling worshipers.

And oh the power of this idol. It will cause people to offer up one year’s salary (for many). It will entice them to exchange the image of God for the image of the many-faceted idol. It will consume the people as the people consume it – we are consumed as we consume – a cruel trick, a diabolic design, an exquisite deception.

Would that this Madness be confined only to March.

Psalm 115
  PS 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.
  PS 115:2 Why do the nations say,
    "Where is their God?"
  PS 115:3 Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
  PS 115:4 But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by the hands of men.
  PS 115:5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but they cannot see;
  PS 115:6 they have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but they cannot smell;
  PS 115:7 they have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but they cannot walk;
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
  PS 115:8 Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

[See also Isaiah 44:9 – 20; 1John 2:15-17; Romans 1:18-23]

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