In the spring of 1997 the city of Grand Forks ND suffered a severe flood, despite being protected from the swollen Red River by an expensive dike system. It seems the earthen dikes gave way easily because they had not been maintained and no one had noticed that they were riddled with mole tunnels.
That’s like the excuses given my our advertisers and entertainers, who routinely teach very bad and damaging lessons and then say such feeble things as, We’re just reflecting our culture as we see it. Their excuse holds no water. They are not merely reflecting bad values but emphasizing, glamorizing, and profiting from them.
Last night I saw yet another of that long stream of ads (going back, I think, at least 30 years now) claiming we should buy this product or that because it represents no compromise. On the face of it, obviously, it is a lie which could not ever be close to truth. Every product is a series of compromises and limits, even the Audi that was being hawked yesterday.
Why tell a bald faced lie to sell your product? Because people want to believe it and so will fool themselves into acting as if it were true. In our culture we have been glorifying greed for a long time now, teaching one another to get all we can. “Buy more, pay less,” as Target puts it. Buy an Audi and get everything a car could ever be, no compromises.
Surely it is now inescapably clear that greed and refusal to compromise are doing immeasurable damage to our culture and our people. There cannot possibly be any moral justification for further glorifying either twisted value.
There will come a time — I hope! — when our culture looks back at the century following World War II and recognizes that advertizing and marketing were extremely powerful forces for evil in American society. Maybe we’d all be helped by going back to read again “The Culture of Narcissism,” written in 1979 by Christopher Lasch. That will remind us that the worst cases of evil being labeled good, which came after Lasch’s book, were done in the full prophetic light of his warning.
Human sin has always been that way because God has always given clear warning and has almost always been completely ignored. We have been trying hard to convince ourselves that human nature is inherently good, not evil yet evil has continued to flourish. The truth is that the human heart is a complex intertwining of good and evil and no naive simplicity in our view of humanity will be helpful.