E-pistle April 1

Sex, Booze and Jesus

A church in Southern California decided that they would advertise their upcoming Easter worship services by buying a 30-second spot during the coming attractions segment played at the local theater before the feature film begins.  They’d join Coke, Pepsi and the Sudsy Bubbles Car Wash in trying to catch the attention of the just arriving movie-goers.

It’s not cheap to get your message up there between trailers, but the church is big and the $5000 for how many ever runs they chose fit within their Easter advertising budget. Everything was set to go until some higher-up in the theater chain vetoed the ad. The spokesperson said it violated their restrictions on advertising content which apparently includes nudity, alcohol and gambling along with political and religious messages. The theater management said the church’s notice of worship times was fine, it was just the part about Jesus they didn’t like. They said it was too controversial and they did not want their valued customers about ready to settle in for 102 minutes of Insidious to be offended.  No sex, booze or Jesus, please.

You can read the story here and here and see the ad here.

Well, things could not have turned out any better for the folks at Compass Church.  They’ve written a press-release and their story is now being told on all the Los Angeles television stations and in the newspapers.  They’ve put their ad (really nicely done) on You Tube where it’s already been viewed over six thousand times. And they get to save their $5,000 for something else.

But the pastor of the church is also playing the p-card.  Persecution. Saying that the ad simply offered folks a chance to come and hear the claims for the historicity of the resurrection, he asked, “What other historical figures will they deny us to research? Muhammad? Buddha?”

But the fact of the matter is that NCM Media Networks does not care about Muhammad or Buddha any more than it does not care about Jesus. It does not care about history or research. It cares about profits. It knows that if it offends its all-too-easily-offended (about some things) audience getting ready to watch Insidious, it might lose ticket sales. It knows full well that if the local Muslims scrape up $5,000 to advertise Ramadan and get their nicely done message on the screen before Gnomeo and Juliet, too many Christians, some of them members of Compass Church, are going to threaten a boycott. Better keep Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad, all three, off the screen.

The persecution of Christians around the world is real. So is the persecution of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. But one recent report suggests that Christians are the target of as much as 75% of all religious persecution. It is not easy to follow Christ in North Korea or Pakistan, Egypt or Iran. It is not easy to follow Christ in the United States. But not because of persecution.  Not because of a spineless movie theater chain executive who’d rather not bother with the possibility of making someone mad.

It’s hard to follow Christ in the United States because we live in a world of twenty-screen theaters and we don’t like our choices limited to taking up our crosses and following. It’s hard to follow Christ in the United States because, like everyone else, we are all too afraid of offending anyone with anything, including the truth.

So, LPC won’t be buying screen time at the local mega-plex in order to advertise Easter worship. As we’ve been saying for the past several weeks, that’s where the share part of “Worship, Grow, Connect, Serve, Share” comes in. Who in your world of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers might you invite to Easter worship at your church? True, you might – but probably won’t – offend them.  However, it may be that things could not turn out any better for them.  And for LPC.

By the way, the theater manager was right. The gospel is offensive.  That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:23)