So the Church of England wants us to pray and they’re willing to enter the market place by attempting to screen an advertisement in our cinemas. Good for them. Sitting in the cinema, I imagine it will be no more offensive than a man on the moon looking through a telescope carried to him by balloons from a girl on earth who thinks he’s lonely. I also imagine it will be considerably less offensive than someone impressing on me the need to have their product in order to be sexy, intelligent, popular or some other vacuous insinuation.
Personally, I’d rather not have religion proseltysing in my face when I’m out for some rest and relaxation, but then the rubbish spewed out by some big companies about how their product will save me is a considerably less endearing form of salvation than a spot of ‘Our Father’. In any case, I’ve been known to grumpily scoff in the cinema with the occasional ‘what total bollocks’ when the claim by some product is so damn stupid, it is offensive.
It’s the problem though of liberal religion really. Our salvation is not even as electrifying as a deoderant. We would like you to feel better, to do better and to work together harder to make the world better, but our message is soft. We can’t promise a thrilling experience unpacking the latest gizmo or trying on your newest item of clothing. Neither can we guarantee the emotional rollercoaster akin to the guilty feeling when you see the dent in your bank balance. And our miracles are laughed at whilst the celebrity endorsed miracle of the newest piece of technology is inescapably alluring.
Of course, and I would say this, I think the enduring power of living in a community, seeking to make the world a better place through your shared values and marking the moments of the year and times in your life are important things to hold on to – just as teaching the ideas of civic responsibility and concern for the stranger or comforting the bereaved and visiting the sick. But that doesn’t mean I want or need that message in the cinema. Let me sit back and relax; I’ll happily be entertained with real fiction in the picture-house not sacred myth and hope for humanity.
Lately I noticed a pub selling itself under the tag line ‘Join our congregation’ (of beer drinkers) and the Christmas advertisement for one big supermarket encouraged me to ‘love your neighbour’. So I did get to thinking, if the materialistic world of consumerism can get in on my act, then why shouldn’t religion get in on theirs?
And let’s face it there are plenty of snake oil sellers preying on our insecurities and superstitions offering us all manner of religious paraphernalia. The free stress test, red strings, holy waters and post modern indulgences are undeniably a sign of the religious consumables travelling in the direction of the market place more aggressively and successfully than the Church of England or progressive Judaism could ever muster.
This Friday is Black Friday apparently. I still think it sounds a bit like a commemoration of some kind of medieval plague. Rather than lighting a candle, some will make pilgrimage to the shopping centre to discover the best deals. If they’re lucky, they’ll come away with something they’re looking for and a slightly reduced bank balance. Doubtless we’ll be offered some sage advice on getting a competitive advantage, avoiding the crush and disappointment and there will be some equally pious wisdom about consumerism gone mad and the true face of human greed.
I should think a few Fathers and Rabbis will be praying for forgiveness of our trespasses and that we be not led into temptation. I’ll be making ready for the Sabbath (Shabbat), minding my own business, and modelling to my children that there is more to life than what we have and what we can buy. I like new things too, but there must be some counterbalance to commercialisation of everything. It’s not salvation through retail therapy but there’s a lot to be said for quiet redemption and saving for a rainy day. And most of the lifestyle we’re sold with that other ‘retail stuff’ is bollocks anyway. Maybe Digital Cinema Media did the C of E a favour after all.