Don't Vote for Casket [consumerism+church]

Sigh.  It's a shame when a church uses their resources to promote (a) consumerism and (b) try to win money from corporations.  But the worst part?  It's actually really funny.

Doritos has a competition to see who can shoot the best video and have it be aired in the Super Bowl.  Among the top six (out of 4,000 entries) is this one entitled "Casket" (h/t The Christian Post)

Hilarious, right?  The thing was made by a churchA mega-church called Mosaic, to be exact, with Wal-mart church campuses in several cities.  So they have the resources and probably some people with tech expertise to enter this type of competition.  All well and good.

But I can't help but look at what it includes:

  • Gluttony to the point of swimming in it.
  • Desperate actions to get the "reward": a week off work
  • Deception and deceit to get the "reward"
  • Using the epitaph "It's a miracle" at the end in a disingenuous way
  • Promoting Consumerism to buy more fatty foods
I'm all about Christ of culture, but depicting a worship service that doesn't critique culture but instead celebrates its negative aspects (see above) isn't a good thing.

Again, the worst thing is that it is (a) hilarious (b) well-made and (c) might just get the top due to Christian support.  And then what does that say about our church?

I can't help but wonder the same thing that some free-thinking websites wonder: if this was made by an atheist and not a church, wouldn't we call it sacrilegious?  And if so, why don't we because of its source?

So, I'm not gonna vote for Casket. It's funny, the money could be used for good things, but like the guy in the casket in the video, the ends do not justify the means. And by not critiquing consumerism and obesity and deceptive tactics, indeed, celebrating those things, its success would do more than $1m worth of damage IMO.

Again, it was hilarious.  And in that hilarity I worry for what its success means.



Missy January 13, 2010 at 5:12 PM  

I'm not going to lie, I've been torn on it. I will admit to voting because at first I thought the concept of the church creating it was intriguing and I thought it was great that the church was encouraging people to use their creativity. But, I completely agree with your critique as well and I'm not going to vote anymore.

Nathan Mattox January 14, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

Well, you're the first to point this out to me, Jeremy--thanks.
You bring up "the money possibly being used in a good way," at the end of the post. Based on what little I've read, I can't discern what the church plans on doing with the prize money (is there prize money? the only reward I could understand is that the commercial will be aired during the Superbowl."
If there is money given as a prize, and if the church commits to donating all the prize (every last dollar) to a homeless program in Los Angeles or to aid in Haiti or something equally virtuous, I'd say the ends do outweigh the means.
Gluttony, deceptiveness, and sacrilegiousness are funny. People watch and talk about funny commercials. If it's good enough for Stephen Colbert, it's good enough for me.
Perhaps the church could even challange Doritos to match their gift to whatever charity if they win the prize, I bet the corporation wouldn't turn down a Super Bowl sized venue to toot their own horn and sell their virtuousness. If it meant 2 million dollars going somewhere needed, I'd say "bring on the hucksterism!" Bring on the commercialization! Bring on the Plastic Jesus!
What do we have to protect? Shouldn't we pour it all out?

Nathan Mattox January 14, 2010 at 1:50 PM  

and I just watched the other finalists i could find, and well, at least casket is comparatively devoid of violence. The others have someone getting shocked by an old man, shocked by a dog collar, slapped by a kid, or stuck in the side of the neck with a flying star dorito!

Joshua Cody January 14, 2010 at 7:41 PM  

I tend to think there's some overreaction here. I, for one, wouldn't think it was sacrilege if someone other than a church created this ad, and it seems to be fairly obviously done in humor.

You've also misrepresented Mosaic as a "Wal-Mart Church." They do have multiple campuses, but each campus features live communication and worship as well as a pastor responsible for shepherding.

If folks are getting their theological cues from a Doritos half-time contest, then the problem isn't with the church running the advertisements, the problem is with other churches not doing their jobs adequately.

The actual advertisement is ambivalent towards the issues you mentioned; it just uses them as a vehicle for its humor.

I feel the only valid point is the one of the church promoting consumerism, Super Bowl madness, and the multi-million dollar grab for eyeballs during the event. But if your problem is with that, you have a lot of issues to cover and attack (used loosely, not implying anything here) before you tackle this commercial.

Thanks for the great conversation, though! Always good to talk about these things and hear the other side of the story.

Anonymous,  January 22, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

I have to agree with you, Jeremy, and disagree with those who make light of your concerns. The unspoken messages we receive are the most powerful and there are far too many negative unspoken messages being offered by this ad.
As I think of Jesus' parables, the twist is what captures our attention and the twist IS the message.

Anonymous,  January 23, 2010 at 9:27 PM  

I think it is creative, funny, and has a great chance of winning! Just think what a church, that is committed to missions and helping others, could do with that prize money!!

Rev. Jeremy Smith January 23, 2010 at 11:04 PM  

@Anonymous, yes, the ends do justify the means, don't they? Why not sell drugs if it will help missions too?

Anonymous,  January 25, 2010 at 9:39 AM  

I attend this church and the pastor owns his own production company completely independent of the church. He and his friends funded the commercial entirely on their own with NO money from the church. I think people need to do the research before being so quick to judge and ask people not to vote for the commercial.

Rev. Jeremy Smith January 25, 2010 at 11:50 AM  

I'm afraid that when a church takes ownership of a message, promotes it on their website, announces it from the's theirs. McManus has said that the money goes to the church so therefore they are responsible for it.

I've written before about Lottery Winnings in Offering Plates and the same principle applies-

Anonymous,  January 25, 2010 at 1:07 PM  

Incorrect, I was in the service last week and he said the money IS NOT going to the church. If those that win the money wish to donate it to the church, that decision is completely up to them. The money cannot go directly to the church because the church is not the submitting party, it is the independent group of people. So where's your source coming from? I see no direct quotes.

And churches promote events and people on their sites all the time. Just because they are asking people to support and vote doesn't mean the church owns it. If I were a pastor and I heard that a group in my church submitted a video for a contest, I would definitely promote it on our site! Why not support peopel within your congregation doing creative and good things?

Rev. Jeremy Smith January 25, 2010 at 1:30 PM  

To your second point first, there has to be a connection between values and identity. If a member's video had morally objectionable claims, then even if I wanted to support them, I wouldn't promote it. I believe "Casket" has morally objectionable claims and presentations. I note you are only disputing the ownership of the video, not the values that I have critiqued above. I would encourage you to do so.

To your first point, I'm glad to have first-hand account for clarity. Thanks. However, the way in which the church and their pastor are promoting it, they are saying in effect "a vote for Casket is a dollar for Mosaic."

Their own website claims that the entry was a shared movement between McManus and Mosaic
"...they rallied together their community from Mosaic, the church Erwin leads, to take a faithful leap into the advertising world by entering their first “create a commercial competition.”

McManus AND Rick Warren have twittered that implying joint ownership between the video, the church, and the money.

And while we can't take responsibility for the media conflating the two entities (church and submitting party), I don't see McManus actively refuting them either.

Why is this important? If my mom who clicks "VOTE' thinks the prize money is going to Mosaic but it really isn't going to Mosaic directly, then people need to know that more clearly.

Since you are more local to McManus, please encourage him to be more transparent that "a vote for casket is NOT a dollar for Mosaic." If he wants to respond, I'll happily reproduce his response in full honest conversation.

Anonymous,  January 25, 2010 at 2:05 PM  

Points well taken. I have not been aware that he has made any direct statements that the contest entry was solely for the purpose that the money would be funneled directly back to the church. Perhaps some things he has said have mislead others, but I commend him for addressing his entire congregation last week to refute this and clear up any misunderstandings.

If you visit Mosaic's homepage, you will see that they do promote this video. But with that, there is no wording in that promotion about voting to make a dollar for Mosaic. On the link you provided for the voting site created, I also see no direct statements about a dollar for Mosaic. I feel as though a lot of your feelings about their claims to want the money for the church are taken out of context and very indirectly.

As for the values the video contains, I believe it comes down to a disagreement about what is considered objectionable. To this debate, I do not see that there will be a victor, as we both could argue our sides till no end.

Your blog post was of particular interest to me because of how quick to judge this church you were and, and felt the need to clear the air specifically about the financial side of things. You of course are entitled to your opinions, but I would hope that as a brother in Christ to these individuals, that you would choose your words carefully and be sure they were the most accurate and not slandering their names or their church body.

Rev. Jeremy Smith January 25, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

I commend McManus for setting the record straight, and that you've followed up here to let the rest of us who are still in the dark know. Thanks, it is helpful. I still find it curious that there's been no corrections or clarifications published to change the headlines from "Megachurch enters ad contest" and "LA Church produces Ad" and "Mosaic's Super Bowl Ad" to "independent group of filmmakers with church ties produce film, church promotes." You have to see the distinction that makes.

Again, we are not responsible for the media, but there's been very little pushback to the marriage between "a vote for Casket = a vote for a Christian ministry." Still rubs me the wrong way like giving to a charity where you find out afterwards that 75 cents to the dollar goes to administration not need. Same thing with my vote. Am I voting for a Christian church or am I not? I don't see active distinction between the two.

However, to your point about financials, I did some searching and the group has already said they would definitely give money to Mosaic.
"If "Casket" wins, 10 percent of the winnings will be given to Mosaic, 50 percent to the cast and crew and 40 percent will go back to Wilson and Yao's production company, Boy and Rocket, to cover production costs."

Just so we are clear on the financials. And no, I don't disagree with their distribution at all.

If the church had directly produced the ad, I would be just as critical as I was above. Like I said, I wouldn't affiliate my church with an ad that celebrates culture instead of critiques it. Those points of expressing values and identity stand. My opinion.

But now that we have clarity on who made what and who gets what money, my previous critique has less value but my further critique is why isn't the church being forthright in who benefits from supporting this video. Statements from the pulpit only reach the rest when dedicated persons like yourself, Anonymous, post them.

Thanks for the good conversation and providing more clarity in an ambiguous conversation. If I may ask, how did you happen across this blog post? Link?

Anonymous,  January 25, 2010 at 4:49 PM  

I completely respect the points you just made. I think this is a constant challenge for churches similar to Mosaic who are outreach driven and Mosaic is a church that tends to attract those that are more creative and working in the "industry." I think their perspective with the commercial brings up an interesting question as well of how Christians are to interact with and use culture to relate to others and draw them in, and how much we are to remain set apart. Christ himself walked that line, as did Paul, and many others that followed.

I don't have an answer for you as to why they have not pressured the media to rephrase certain things that were said. Perhaps those discussions have or are taking place, but I am not within that inner circle. I think with controversial events, words get taken out of context and misunderstood easily, so I am not surprised by the confusion. It may have been that they were forthright in who benefits, but in the media it did not get translated correctly. Or it could be that they honestly messed up by not being so clear in the beginning. (maybe they didn't foresee this becomming that big of an issue--lesson learned, if that is the case)

I was doing some research myself on the issue when I came across your blog post. I think your comparison between my church and Walmart definitely caught my attention, and not in a good way. Like I said, I respect your right to your opinions, but I just wish they were expressed in a less abrasive way. I would hate for a non-believer to read your critique and be discouraged because they see us bikcering and judging each other over something like a Doritos commercial.

But regardless, I've enjoyed hearing your perspective!

TLS,  February 1, 2010 at 11:17 AM  

This article is just one in a series of conflicts around who has the right to advertise on TV and raises for me questions of Christian privilege.

Would a Muslim ad make it to the top six in a contest (no matter how funny it was)? Or an atheist ad?

I doubt it.

how to win the lottery August 4, 2010 at 1:08 PM  

Sometimes I think too much is read into the motives behind such things. this is a funny advert that makes people laugh. How could that be a bad thing?

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