Friday, January 21, 2011

Chips and Communion

Couldn’t help but notice this story either, about how a Doritos ad is being pulled from the Super Bowl roster because it portrayed the elements of the Catholic Eucharist being replaced by Doritos (from bread) and Pepsi Max (for the wine).


I haven’t watched the Super Bowl in years and right now don’t even know who’s left in the playoffs. Just don’t care any more. Stopped caring when beer commercials took up more time than the game did.

Personally I’m not offended by the ad. I find it roll-your-eyes stupid. That’s about it. But keep in mind that’s what I think of about 99% of TV ads. (I figure one of the best in recent years is the GEICO “former drill sergeant” bit.) And it won’t cause me to eat less Doritos and drink less Pepsi Max because I already can’t stand them. Too much sodium in the chips, and those new sweeteners leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Now for the serious comments.
The ad firm that made this one has apologized. But you have to wonder at the stupidity of them not seeing what kind of offense this would cause. Obviously someone didn’t know (or appreciate sufficiently) that the Eucharist elements are considered to by Catholics be the body and blood of Christ. In other denominations, it’s more symbolic, of course, but I can certainly see even Southern Baptists, for example, shaking their head at this ad with their view of the elements as merely symbols. At the very least it is stupid because it turns the ritual into a joke that not even Joel Osteen would pull.

Yes, there’s all sorts of other considerations, such as: They’d probably not have done something like that to an Islamic ritual. That angle’s being played elsewhere, as are others; I’ll relate it to apologetics.

What this shows is indeed insensitivity, but also profound ignorance. I’ve never made Catholicism one of my serious subjects of study, and even I know that this would have offended some Catholics. There are other signs of ignorance as well, as the ad apparently mixes together different denominational artifacts (eg, calling the priest a “pastor”). Whoever made this thing was either making a fairly poor attempt to be funny while trying not to offend by making the church “generic” -- or else was profoundly ignorant. Or maybe both.

Still and all, as I said in a recent article for CRJ, about books like Jacob’s Year of Living Biblically, Christians also can blame themselves because none of this would have happened had we been fulfilling Matthew 28:18-20 as we should be. Even if we don’t persuade people to convert, then they’d at least know what we believe and where not to cross the line. One reason Islam isn't crossed as much this way is because they speak up when something like this happens and make a lot of noise. (They add violence at times, too, of course, but that's another issue.) If only we were as noisy when it came to teaching people what we believe!

As it is, I see this ad as being of a piece with such things as people not even being able to coherently explain basic doctrines like the atonement and the Trinity – inside the church or out. We’re too busy entertaining ourselves instead – with football games and junk food.

Kind of ironic – on Super Bowl Sunday (whenever that is – I don’t even know that) a lot of churches will have well-attended Super Bowl parties, but those same churches can’t even get a handful of people to come to educational classes with any depth.
This ad? It’s the fruit of our own neglect.

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