Monday, August 27, 2012

On Selling Beer and Jesus

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Josh Kiel

This Thursday the college football season will be upon us. Upon its commencement, I will rejoice and be glad because I am a college football junkie. I can't get enough of it and hence my television viewing is going to increase exponentially. As with any televised sporting event this means my mind is going to be bombarded with a slew of commercials telling me exactly which beer will make my life the most amazing. This is convenient because I love beer, so Here We Go.

There will naturally be an onslaught of the "Lite" varieties of cheap tasteless crappy beers which claim that I am committing an atrocity against everything sacred if I do not drink their beers while grilling on a Saturday. Others will suggest that wherever their beer goes a party with beautiful people a plenty will follow. Some will even suggest that my choosing another beer as opposed to their brand will require me to relinquish my "man card" because drinking Domestic Swill Lite B over Domestic Swill Lite A is supposedly unmanly. 

A step above those beers, though not by much, are the imports that suggest that their beers are more sophisticated and will enable me to be a jack-of-all trades leading a woman on a crazy high pace date whilst destroying property, and that no one will care because of how cool they know I am by the green bottle in my hand {Heineken}. Or I can be a touch more like the Most Interesting(/Pretentious) Man in the World. Or, with the twist of a bottle cap, I can convince myself that my hectic loud surroundings throughout the rest of the week can be transformed into a serene beach with waves lapping upon the sand and a hot woman in a bikini lounging next to me. 

If the concept was not so ridiculous people could express outrage that they should notify the consumer "Actual results may vary". They don't need to though because they know that we know that those results won't actually happen. We are merely being reminded of the variety of different beers available for our choosing and are whimsically being prodded to buy one brand over the other. 

Since we don't actually expect those results there's little harm in the ridiculousness of the commercials. Our goal when drinking a beer is to relax and enjoy the flavor of the beer (if possible with the brands alluded to above) so we don't expect it to solve our life's problems, it's not like their marketing Christianity or something.

Is how we market Christianity all that different though? Are there any of us who have not heard it at least alluded to that Christianity is a simple and straightforward solution to all of life's problems. Follow Jesus and he will lead you to the promised land of a wife, 2.6 kids, a dog, and a house in the suburbs. Follow Jesus and we have a four word mantra to walk you through all possible decisions you may ever face. Follow Jesus and all of your troubles will disappear because the God of the universe will then be on your side and what could possibly go wrong after that. 

If only it were so simple.

What Would Jesus Do? It's simple and it conveys a point just like Here We Go, Stay Thirsty, or Life's a Beach, but it's a coverall and would rarely satisfy us in the ways we would like to be. WWJD is a difficult proposal if you find out that someone is embezzling money to pay for their children's cancer treatment. The fact that Jesus would just miracle that kid back to full health doesn't help me in making a moral judgment in how to evaluate such a situation. 

In reality, the call would be that I should assist that person in caring for their child and paying for his treatment. This could be poorly received because that would set back my savings for the house in the suburbs that I'll get with my Christian wife and 2.6 kids which, as I was raised to understand, is the standard Christian life path. 

The disconnect here is more profound and more disappointing than the resentment I may feel when after drinking a few beers I am still not the most interesting man in the world and a party or beach has not overtaken my present surroundings. The fact is that if I view Christianity as a path to something I will be left unfulfilled.

In keeping with my beer laden analogy perhaps we should view Christianity as a craft beer. The beers which have no advertising because their quality is inherent when consumed and experienced. Those that have no presuppositions that they may lead you to additional enjoyments because they are sufficiently enjoyable in and of themselves. 

I guess my primary point of all this is whether we view Christianity as a means to an end or the end itself. Whether at the end of the day our identities as Christians fulfill us regardless of where it may lead us or what it may cost us because our fulfillment is in that identity and not in the supplemental benefits that our culture has come to associate with it.

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