Monday, October 17, 2011

Light of the World- Truth in Advertising

Title: Light of the World Truth in Advertising

I was seriously contemplating taking the week off from blogging. I was having a hard time figuring out what to write about. I haven't watched any really interesting movies lately, and other than Terra Nova, my television viewing pretty much revolves around sports. I had other things I'd rather do, but then I saw a pair of commercials last night that I thought would be a great starting point.

If you haven't yet seen the two new Microsoft ads, watch them here and here.

30 seconds doesn't seem like a lot of time to send a message, does it? Every day, we receive messages in 30 second packets. Almost all of them are attempting to sell us something. Some try to get us to purchase a new car, others woo us with shiny new electronic gadgets, starting in January a lot of them will try to tell us who to vote for. 30 seconds is actually a lot more time than we think it is. In such a short amount of time we can be persuaded to do a lot of things.

With all that sales pitch going on, where can we find any truth? I'm not talking about truth in terms of the product doing what it claims to do, because we all know that doesn't always happen (especially with Microsoft products) in our (I'm sorry computer, please don't blue screen on me in the middle of typing this!) technologically dependent world. I'm talking about truth in relation to our Christian worldview. I think the tagline of the commercials is a very genius way of marketing a product not just as a way of making life more entertaining or easy, but also as a way of getting us to use those devices together as a family.

It's a great time to be a family

The message is almost counter-cultural in our modern age! As an American society, we have become increasingly more individualistic and self oriented. “Family” is a fairy tale for some. For others, a fight for recognition. For some, family is still the central unit of society. Out West, we have a large population of Mormons, who value family above all, and we snicker and make jokes about how “backward” they are. I wonder how many of us secretly wish our families were as close as Mormon families are. Religious beliefs aside, the earthly functionality of the Mormon family isn't “backward” at all. In fact, it is the ideal and normative vision God has for us. Mormons believe that family is the essential unit of society and that without stable, loving families, society will crumble.

I thought you were Catholic!!!” I'm sure some of you just screamed at me. I'm not promoting their religion. I'm doing what good Catholics should do- taking a good example (no matter where it comes from) to illustrate truth. So, what is the Catholic perspective on family? Interestingly enough, it is quite similar to the Mormon perspective. I'm pretty sure ours developed first- the Church is 2,000 years old after all- but the similarities are actually pretty striking.

Here's a quote from the Mormon website on family:

God organizes us into families so that we can grow up in happiness and safety, and so that we can learn to love others selflessly—the key to true joy. Within the family is the best place to learn to love others the way Heavenly Father loves each one of us.”

The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.” (CCC 2207)

The Catechism further states, “It [family] is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church as is evident in the New Testament.” (footnote references: Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7)

As Catholics, we call the family domus ecclesia which means home church. The idea is that our family unit is the first “church” we are members of. As a small family unit, we gather to eat, pray, play, and converse. At the Eucharistic gathering of all the faithful, we gather to eat, pray, and converse (play is sometimes there too- just look at the kids in the back). The intent is that parents will teach their children the way of Christ and His love so that the children will be able to contribute within society. Sadly, we often fail at this mission. It troubles me to see men drop their children and wives off at the door and come back to pick them up after Mass. We have more women volunteering as instructors for religious education classes than men. And we wonder why we have seen a drop in vocations to the priesthood?! Our young boys don't have role models where they need them most- in the domus ecclesia!!

In a wider view, society doesn't value family. For 30 years (maybe more), parents have been content to place their children in front of a television instead of playing in the back yard. Parents excuse themselves from their role as instructors and let Power Rangers, Yu-gi-oh, and Batman teach the children. And they wonder why kids get in trouble at school! We live in a society that has become so technologically advanced that video games and a “nanny cam” seem to be adequate substitutes for parents and baby sitters.

Microsoft has done a wonderful job promoting the use of their products for the betterment of families. In the first commercial, a dad is taking his turn at the video game while the kids and grandparents watch from the couch. First of all, where was video game playing dad when I was growing up?! Second, it is nice to see that everyone is paying attention to what he is doing. Sure, he looks like a dork playing the dance game (my guess is he was raised Wesleyan! joking); but don't we all look stupid playing those games? The daughter is recording the scene so she can make fun of him on facebook. The son uploads it, and everyone enjoys a laugh- even dad. The overt message may be, “buy a Windows 7 phone, Windows 7 laptops, Xbox 360 Kinect (make Bill Gates richer!).” But, the underlying message is, “the family that plays together stays together” (I know it's supposed to be prays!).

The second commercial features a boy asking for every boy's second dream gift- a dog! The first is a Red Ryder BB gun, but we all know what happens if parents give us one of those! In the 90's boys had to ask nicely, do chores for a month or two solid, and prove they could handle the responsibility of a dog. Apparently in 2011 boys can put together a slick PowerPoint presentation and win over their parents' approval. I give the kid kudos on the integration of video within the PowerPoint project- it really made it more interesting than pie charts! I thought the most humorous part was also the most poignant- the end. When dad realizes that slick PowerPoint presentations are the key to getting what we want (hmm...), he puts together a presentation about why he should abandon his family and play golf on Sundays. I wonder if that's what all the men who aren't at Mass on Sunday did. The wife wisely refuses to approve that request.

It's a great time to be a family”

Indeed it is! We have mothers who live past childbirth; children who don't die of disease before age two; running water; indoor cooking; and video games! Why then do we laugh at the “backwards” Mormons because they have “Family Home Evening”? I bet it's because we wish we had that too! What's stopping us? Are we scared that spending time with our wife and kids will make us less manly and cool?! Maybe if more of us took a cue from the Mormons, society would be a friendlier, more loving, and honest place. It couldn't hurt to try!

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