When I was in college I attended an interesting lecture by Professor Michael Budde, who teaches political science at DePaul University. The lecture was entitled “Jesus on the Job: The Corporate Exploitation of Religion,” and drew, I’m sure, on much of the research that went into his book (with Robert Brimlow) Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business Is Buying the Church. During that lecture, I remember Budde talking about a phenomenon that I considered–and still consider–very interesting. Not only that, but something that is in evidence all around us if we choose to look. Basically Budde argued that advertisers love the fact that America is such a strongly semi-churched society. In other words, advertisers appreciate, and bank on the fact, that Americans are generally familiar enough with religion–specifically Christianity–to be attracted by religious language, imagery or echoes of either–but are not faithful enough to recognize blasphemy. As I said, you don’t have to look hard in our society to find evidence of this. Donald Miller has spoken about similar things in the past when he’s compared the different perspectives of Canadians and Americans regarding something as simple as dish soap. In Canada, for the most part, dish soap is labeled as such–dish soap. In the US dish soap–nor anything else–can simply be what it is. Instead, via advertising, dish soap becomes something more, something almost transcendent, an item that will make your life better, restore your thinning hair and make you attractive to the opposite sex. It’s not just dish soap… it’s never just dish soap. It’s something more.
Well, I think I’ve just seen an ad that is, as with so much else in our society, utterly blatant about this sort of thing–let me know what you think: