Friday, February 19, 2010

Snowed in...

Hi all - feels like a long time since I've blogged. 2 weeks ago we were all scrambling to get ready for the big snow. There was nearly a week of forced hibernation.

The weather had an unexpectedly emotional impact on me. It both relaxed me and made me restless for a different time and place. It reminded me of my childhood, ski retreats in Vermont in grad school, sledding parties in Minnesota. The silence of cross-countryskiing reminded me of other times alone in a snowy woods and the conversations with God I've had there. The weather called out of me bits and pieces of my personality and my loves that go underground when the weather's above freezing.

It was powerful and gave me joy to reconnect with these parts of myself. My housemate (also a Minnesotan) and I had a blast tromping around and loving the snow. But the overall effect on my mood, 2 weeks out, has been rather unpleasant. I'm starting to return to normal - back in a routine. But there's a big part of me that doesn't want the snow to melt.

Mid westerners get stereotyped as talking too much about the weather. But doesn't the weather affect just about everything else? From an earthquake in Haiti to record snows in DC, the weather is the news, and not only because of its physical effects (destruction, loss of life, property, power).

The weather affects emotions. I wonder how immigrants do it. Removed permanently from the lay of familiar land, the smells of their air, their slant of sunshine. Is part of them always missing?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Corporate influence - should we be afraid (and I don't mean in campaign finance.)

As many of you know, I was irrationally sad at the Vikings' loss last week. Thank you for your sympathy. My oldest brother wrote a hilarious blog post about it. Might give you some insight as to why I took the loss so hard. Read his post, "Purple, Like a Bruise".

But moving onto the Superbowl...

It's old hat to try to draw comparisons between the two competitors for an American church-goer's Sunday attention: Football and Church. But there's a new twist. A mega church in LA, Mosaic, is trying to go where the people are next Sunday by competing in a Superbowl ad contest sponsored by Doritos.

As you can imagine, this has sparked a variety of comments, from "Praise be to the God of Israel, I know this commercial will be shown on Superbowl Sunday, All Glory and Honor to God our Father" to "I hope there aren't any Christians voting for this tasteless kind of humor. It's very sad that a priest was actually behind the making of this." (These and over a thousand other comments are on the Doritos Crash the Superbowl website).

The negative comments generally focused on the tastefulness of making a commercial starring a man faking his own death. For me, the interesting question isn't whether the content of the commercial is immoral, but what's it mean for a church to advertise something that's not overtly their own product?

This commercial advertises Doritos. The church doesn't pretend otherwise. There are no hints of God, grace, community nor any of the things our typical outreach/witness/evangelism (church advertising) campaigns do. This is a totally different thing than the Catholic posters in the DC metro telling you to get to church and find forgiveness.

So why'd they do it?

According to their website, Mosaic (the church) "welcomes people from all walks of life, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey." No mention of Doritos as part of the church's mission. But wait..

Yes, the explicit message in the ad is that you should eat Doritos.

But implicit in the ad is that church-goers are just like you, they watch football, have a sense of humor, and even think it would be a cool idea to dream up an advertisement to play during the Superbowl. Re: the Mosaic mission this ad says that if your spiritual journey includes a nearly idolatrous love of football (guilty) or an appreciation for witty commercial entertainment (I love the Superbowl commercials), this is the church for you. As the Sr. Pastor, Edwin McManus said in a Yahoo article,

We're not trying to use Doritos to propagate a message, but I think we want
people to know that we have a sense of humor, that it's OK to laugh. So much of
what comes out of the faith community seems so dour and somber and we want to say, 'Hey, we're real people. You can be a person of faith and really enjoy life
and laugh."

Ok. Here's the sticky part: if they win, they could get up to $1 million from Doritos. And now we've got corporate sponsorship of a church. Should we be afraid?

Our congregation recently decided not to take the kick-backs offered by a clean energy company (they'd give 10$ for every household who switched energy providers to wind) even though this company's product was clearly in line with our mission. Something about taking money from a for-profit corporation bothered us, though I'm not sure we ever clarified exactly what it was. We still promoted the wind energy program, just didn't take the money.

So what do you think? About the Doritos ad or about taking a finders fee for wind energy customers. Is it OK for churches to take money (which can help mission) from corporations who are clearly looking to promote their own products?

Curious to hear some responses. You can bet I'll be watching the Superbowl commercials, and it breaks my heart to say, rooting for the Saints in between.

-Peace and joy - Sarah

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...