Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why are the cowards at Sports Illustrated afraid of this ad?

It is a curious form of religious freedom when only certain types of Christians - those of the extreme right - are allowed to buy advertising in the public square.

Sports Illustrated has refused to run this ad. They claim that it was on advice of the legal department that the ad was "too jarring." In fact, it's because Sports Illustrated (most famous for its annual soft porn edition) is published by cowards who are afraid of the so-called Christian right.

Similarly, in 2004, CBS refused to run this ad during the Super Bowl from the United Church of Christ because the ad did not conform to the agenda of the Christian right. Other religious ads - including an anti-choice ad by an NFL player and financed by right wing Christian groups - have been allowed. But because this ad about Jesus radical welcome to even the outcasts and sinners was banned by CBS.


Anonymous said...

This is how a radical fringe claims support from the masses they wrongly claim to represent.

Rick+ said...

     Wow! I like the ad. We're using "Living the Questions" for our Lenten series, and I'm suggesting to our rector this might be a way to advertise it and provoke real interest.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they did run the UCC ads in the US, on both public and private television, cable TV and on public and private radio; it made no difference. The UCC continues its membership free-fall.
And a lot of Black churches laughed at the UCC claiming to welcome non-whites while remaining over 96% white and middle/upper middle class in membership. They felt this was hypocritical

Malcolm+ said...

Nixon, a couple of things.

The network refused to run the ad during the Super Bowl, whichh would have had it premiere in prime advertising real estate. The subsequent ballyhoo about the CBS censorship of moderate and progressive Christians meant thhat networks did back down and run the ad afterwords. Nonetheless, I have gone back and clarified that the refusal was to run the ad during the Super Bowl.

The membership of the United Church of Christ is declining - as is the membership of every single Christian denomination in te United States with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church. Significant immigration nets the Roman Catholics positive numerical growth, however if immigration is factored out, Roman Catholic nnumbers are declining faster than most.

It is certainly true that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in the US, the UCC is less segregated than, say, most evangelical megachurches. And there is certainly no bar to African-Americans attending the United Church of Christ.

But glad to see your IRD talking points were delivered on time. You don't seem to have an answer for the fact that Sports Illustrated and CBS - both of whom have been prepared to publish advertising from the religious right - are scared to death of letting anyone hear the voices of moderate or progressive Christians.

Anonymous said...

IRD? What's this?
If ex-Catholics were their own denomination, they'd be the 2nd largest (after Catholics who're still calling themselves Catholics.)Even with immigration, you're right, within 30 years, they could be the single largest religious block in the US (and Canada, too?).
And replacing the Irish and Germans who're leaving or drifting away with Latin Americans and Filipinos and Vietnamese causes as many problems as it solves, especially in funding (they're often poor and in need of services) and vocations, for which the Latin Americans in particular have never been able to provide nearly enough, even for themselves back in their home countries.
I had no idea "SI" even knew about the differences between religions, but with all the pointing towards the sky after touchdowns, they probably got some complaints from either the players or they figured out that the NFL is more like NASCAR than NPR/CBC.
You're right; the UCC never forbade anyone Black from entering or becoming clergy (cf. the Mormons). But even the Southern Baptist Convention has over three times the number of Blacks that the UCC does and the SBC had open segregationists in its ranks forty years ago.
What else is going on that non-white, non middle class/upper middle class people just don't join your mainline churches? Why do Hispanic immigrants, should they become dissatisfied with the Catholic church, decide to become Pentecostal or Baptist or Mormon, rather than the PC-USA or the UCC or the CC-DOC or the Episcopal church or the Unitarians or the Quakers, all of which bodies are on record as wanting to increase their ethnic diversity?
If a 140 kg man preached about the benefits of regular exercise and a good diet but only lost 2 kgs in three years, would you say he was the victim of terrible genes or just not that serious about losing weight?
Compare the preaching about women in the ordained ministry with their rapid increase in numbers in seminaries and in the ranks of church professionals, including clergy. They're often not invited into the wealthier congregations (especially not as head pastor) but they're at least approaching their percentage in the general population. And all this at the same time as most of the "Celebrate our Diversity!" campaigns.
What are the differences?

Malcolm+ said...

IRD is a right wing group, funded by some of the most extreme right wingers in the US and they have actively financed efforts to destabalize TEC, UCC, PCUSA and UMC. In your earlier post, you sounded a lot like the IRD's usual talking points. In your more recent one, you sound like you'd actually be interested in some serious engagement on issues.

Remember that the Irish and the Italians used to be poor and marginalized. It seems to be part of North American RC history that they are the church of the poor immigrant whose wealthier grandchildren will drift away (in a previous time to other churches, nowadays to vague "spiritual but not religious").

I don't have statistics, but the Episcopal Church actually does attract a lot of ex-RCs, including Hispanics, who find the overall shape of the church familiar.

The larger question is why all churches a) are declining in numbers and b) are racially and culturally monochromatic. This is a problem across the board, as much with the evangelical mega-churches as with any other denomination. Even the more diverse RC church often has parishes that are ethnically segregated - partly by intention and partly by happenstance.

Some part of this is probably a natural corollary from the fact that the most effective form of evangelism is invitation from a friend. Most people tend to have friends that are like them, so the people they invite tend to be like them. And the people they invite are more likely to stay if the church is made up mostly of people like them.

And some part of it is a continuing undercurrent of (mostly unconscious) underlying racism and stereotyping. Several years ago, I know of a black family from Barbados who arrived at a parish in Toronto, complete with a letter of introduction from the rector of their home parish. The rector suggested that they might be more comfortable at the Pentecostal Church a few blocks away. How much of that was deliberate racism I'm not sure, but racist it certainly was - including the rather odd assumption that Barbadian Anglican blacks would feel more at home among African American Pentecostals than among Canadian Anglicans.

WRT the number of blacks in the SBC, IIRC, at least part of than may be attributable to the existence and more recently increase in black congregations - partly driven by the choice of an African American denomination to merge into the SBC.

Anonymous said...

True the Irish and Germans and Italians used to be overwhelmingly poor but many of them remained in the church, and even increased their involvement, as they became middle class and wealthier. Previously, they remained in the church; now, many are actively hostile, not simply drifting away and coming back for funerals and X-mass. The largest ethnic block of US atheists self-identifies as Irish.
The ex-Catholics who join the Episcopal church tend to me middle/upper middle class, often divorced/openly gay. There have been some publicized "ethnic" churches, but they're in a small minority. Mainline Protestantism tends to have preachers for the poor; the Baptists and Pentecostals tends to have the poor preachers.
The evangelical mega-churches are often in the same suburbs that used to be claimed as the monopoly of the mainline churches; they are probably as segregated as the Mainline churches around them. And there are many Black mega churches in inner ring suburbs.
What Chris Hedges refers to as
"boutique activism" seems to operate; women and gays and the poor and racial minorities get preached about but only gays and women seem to be noticeably increasing in the ranks of the Mainline Protestant clergy.

Malcolm+ said...

While I think te drift away problem is more acute for the Romans nowadays, it has always been there. Poor immigrants are pretty observant, and their grandchildren begin to drift off. It may have accelerated, but the problem isn't new. Yes, there is more open hostility now - ironically often directed at a supposedly powerful church whose influence is waning if not defunct.

(An interesting exercise - compare popular cultural depictions of clergy a generation or two ago with popular culture depictions of clergy today. Bing Crosby in Going My Way vs the child abusing priest on an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.)

The problem of congregationall apartheid seems to be pretty constant across denominations regardless. It is much the same in a progressive Anglican / Episcopal parish as in a conservative evangelical megachurch.

In part, as I said, its te consequence of the fact that most people create their closest relationships with people like them - so invitational evangelism tends to gather more "people like us." Breaking out of that, while not impossible, is very difficult.

My observation on vitality is that, over time, vital congregations are mostly focused outward, while declining congregations are mostly focused inward. Ironically, fear for survival becomes the kiss of death.

Being female or gay, of course, tends to cross demographic boundaries. There are rich gays and poor gays, rich women and poor women; Black, White and Hispanic gays, Black White and Hispanic women. The demographic fence (in most churches an unintended fence) does not affect gays and women to the same degree that it affects racial / ethnic minorities.

Your earlier comment, though, points out that even for gays and women, it ain't all roses. Few women and few open gays ever get a shot at what the senior jobs at the plum parishes.

It works in reverse as well. In some dioceses up here, there has been a move to more locally ordained and raised up clergy. While often very gifted priests, the net effect has been that the non-stipendiary clergy have been mostly women while the stipendiary clergy have been mostly men. Clergy working at a part time stipend have been more likely to be women. In one other diocese, virtually all the non-stipendiaries were Frist Nations. I'm quite certain that ws never intentional, but it does point to the lingering power of systemic racism and sexism.

Malcolm+ said...

I would say, though, that the mainstream churches at least appear conscious of the fact that this is an issue - and a justice / kingdom issue at that. I don't get that sense from the evangelical or megachurch movement.

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with you on that; the Evangelicals I hear on local media seem to be constantly preaching about becoming less European in membership.
Another imbalance is that Black churches and Hispanic churches seem to be even more resistant to women clergy than their White Evangelical counterparts-and the Black and Hispanic churches don't seem to be blamed for this or challenged on it by the Mainline/Progressive churches. Neither do the Orthodox churches, where there's even less discussion about ordaining women than with the Catholics-and they're never challenged on this, either, despite being members of nearly every local Council of Churches in the US.
Why the differences? Why do some groups get challenged and others not? Do the Mainliners feel paternalist about Black and Hispanic churches that do things they disagree with (like not ordaining women or the openly gay?), tolerating behaviors that they're much more upset by when done by Whites in similar churches? Are there simply too few Orthodox for Mainliners to be upset by, compared to the number of Catholics in North America? Are the Orthodox simply treated as chaplaincies to ethnic diasporas, not very important and not worth wasting emotional and political energy on no matter how much you may disagree with not letting clergy re-marry after divorce or the death of a spouse or not ordaining women or the openly gay?
It seems as if there are many unspoken agendas. I find it very hard to ignore calls for universal values that remain trapped in limited voices.

Malcolm+ said...

I think we'd both agree that talk is cheap - and that both mainline churches and evangelical churches have more talk than walk in this regard. (Though in both cases, that is probably at least partly unintended consequence rather than deliberate exclusion.)

I don't know that your claim re: women and LGBTQTS in Black and Hispanics congregations holds true in the Episcopal Church or in other mainline churches. From what I have seen and read (which is admittedly no scientific random sample), the resistance to women / LGBTQTS tends to be more a reflection of the denominational affiliation to which they have gone than any inherent attitude among Blacks or Hispanics.

As to the Orthodox, I don't think most mainline churches have ever really felt it there business to tell other historic churches how to run their affairs. But I suspect that the small number and ethnically isolationist tendency of the Orthodox has largely made them far back of mind for most mainline churches. The fact that most Orthodox churches in North America seem content with being "chaplaincies to ethnic diasporas" does tend to render them irrelevant for most.

Donald Hansen said...

When the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada merged with the Lutheran Church of America-Canada section to form a new denomination 25 years ago, the membership of the new denomination was over 220,000 baptized members. We had great hopes for a growing and vibrant church. Oh, how we got wrong. In 2011, the membership is now less 170,000. Membership has dropped 25% during this period. Congregations that used to sponsor their own missionaries have closed their doors. Almost every month, somewhere in Canada, a Lutheran congregation is closing. Why is this happening?

In my opinion, there are many reasons.

One reason is that Canadian Lutheranism is for the most part, a rural denomination. 80% of its congregations are rural. The drain of people from the rural areas to the cities has hit Lutheranism very hard. When move away from the rural areas, they stop going to church. They for the most part do not seek out Lutheran Churches in their new communities. Their church is still back at “the home town” and not where they are now living.

This leads to a second problem. Canadian Lutheranism is about as ethnic a Christian denomination as one can find. The vast majority of its membership have Germanic, Scandinavian, and to lesser extent Baltic roots. The people came to Canada during the waves of immigration that followed the first and second world wars. Because many came from Canada’s most threatening enemy, Germany, the Lutheran Church was the place where being German in Canada was not going to be a problem. In the Lutheran Church, one did not have to hang their head in shame for being German; in fact being proud of their German heritage was encouraged, you could even sing hymns and hear sermons in German. It was a place where displaced persons could find people who were just like them.

The sad reality is that today, most Lutherans continue to see their ethnicity as their blessing and not as a hindrance. They fail to understand that folks who are not German or Scandinavian have little interest in joining a denomination run almost exclusively by Germans and Norwegians.

A denomination based on ethnicity is a denomination that will die (or at the very least, loose 25% of its membership in 25 years).

The Anglican Church suffers from this same problem. The Anglican Church is comprised of folks from Britain or from the former British Empire (which explains why they have a few visible minorities from Africa and the Caribbean hanging around).

Malcolm+ said...

I recall, at College, classmates sickering over a document that referred to a number of tiny ethnic churches (the Hungarian Evangelical Church was one, IIRC).

I pointed out that less than 20 years previously, our church had been "The Church of England in Canada."

A few years later, we changed our name in French to bring it into conformity with our name in English - from "l'eglise Episcopale" to "l'elglise Anglicaine." I still maintain we changed the wrong one.