16 February 2011

Meditation: "Super Bowl Ads and Right Relationship"

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in all of you?" --from Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth

"A relationship with God is the true identity. After all, we are modeled after him, and he's our Creator." --John Maurer of Social Distortion
Dear Friends,

I watched most of the Super Bowl this year which is not something I typically do. But given that Pittsburgh was playing in the big game and I am originally from the 'Burgh (and grew up in Pittsburgh in the 70's when the Steelers were rackin' up the Super Bowls), I just had to watch the game.

Except, at the end of it all, I kind of wished I hadn't. And not only because the Steelers lost this time around.

It wasn't the game that depressed me as much as the advertising. Okay, yes, a few of the commercials made me laugh. But with my two children in the room (one is 2 1/2 and the other is 6), I found myself repeatedly asking them to look away from the screen while guns blasted or explosions roared or inappropriate sexual situations ran rampant--all trying to sell a product. And then there were the commercials that reinforced tired and infuriating gender and racial stereotypes as well as twisted ideas of what "relationships" look like (this last comment was prompted by this blog by Michel Martin). If my kids saw these ads over and over again--and I never talked to them about what they have seen--what on earth would they learn?

Okay, I will admit that we rarely watch commercial TV in our home. We don't have cable. We get our TV from an old-fashioned antenna on the roof. We are tuned into PBS 95% of the time. They rarely see scary images of violence or steamy sexual situations. When it comes to TV, it's all "Cat in the Hat" and "Super Why!" at our house. I know the day will come when we can no longer shelter our kids from the sex and violence of TV, but we aim to hold it off as long as we can.

In the midst of all this, I've been pondering something called "right relationship". For me, "right relationships" are characterized by respect, mutuality, patience, generosity, love--and never violence. They are relationships where there is authenticity, honesty and, when needed, forgiveness. I believe that these are the kinds of relationships that God desires for us and that Jesus affirmed in his life and teaching. These are the kinds of relationships that I hear Jesus encouraging us to pursue in, say, the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew.

And so all of these advertisements that I encountered--with their glorification of violence and objectification of bodies and twisted messages about relationships and sexuality--collided with this idea of "right relationship" that's been circling around my heart and head lately. And I felt very sad that for so many people what they see on TV has become the norm, instead of that more sacred norm of the blessing and beauty of "right relationship."

As I think about my girls growing and learning, one of the things I most desire for them is that they absorb at a deep level what a healthy, mutually respectful, loving relationship looks like. I want them to understand that violence is not something to glorify. I want them to know, deep, deep down, that they are beautiful in every way.

I want them to know the blessing of "right relationship" because that is God's desire for them, and you, and me.

And we all know that they won't get that from watching anything on TV--especially the commercials.

Blessings on you,


PS By the way, I am not an overly puritanical person. I am not categorically against more mature themed content on TV. I just wish it wasn't broadcast when children are likely to see it. I think we can only criticize to a point those who produce the trashy stuff on TV because, let's face it, if people didn't watch it, they wouldn't produce it. Most criticism of Hollywood points the finger right back at us (the "us" being the American public).