Engaging Culture

You Can Change Offensive Advertising in Your Community

If you’re a parent or grandparent reading this column, you’ve most likely felt the onslaught of media images of sexuality, violence, and coarse behavior that seem to bombard families today. While we often feel helpless against the wave of media, advertising, and corporate messages we see, the truth is, we can impact those messages if we do it with wisdom. Not so long ago, lingerie retailer “Victoria’s Secret” announced they would back off their “sexy” image after consumers complained and business declined. Even their recent Super Bowl commercial was more subdued, and it now appears the company feels it has crossed the line between “sexy” and “sleazy.”

How did this change happen?

Customer opinions matter. While the decision also reflected poor sales results, the company admitted that customer complaints had a significant impact. I’ve discovered that when people call or write and express their feelings about an issue like this, in most cases, companies will respond in a positive way. Don’t be a jerk, or on a moral high horse, just express a logical reason why it’s in their best interest to respond.

A few years ago, a local sign company put up very inappropriate and sexually suggestive bus stop ad outside our local high school where my daughters attended. When I called the sign company and graciously expressed my concern about exposing high school age kids to that message, they responded immediately and had them replaced within 2 hours.

When it comes to your local community, you can make a real impact for morality and values, but here are some important keys to consider:

1) Don’t be afraid to express your faith in the community. Because of recent court rulings regarding church and state, too many Christians shy away from speaking out publically about anything remotely religious. But your personal faith is something you have the right to express. If you have questions, you can ask a Christian attorney for advice, or contact the American Center for Law and Justice (www.aclj.org) for information.

2) Be gracious when you contact a company or public official. Too many Christians become bullies when it comes to expressing their opinion. Stop arguing with people, and begin developing a relationship of compassion and trust. If we’re going to be an effective witness in today’s world, we have to begin with a gracious relationship and act out of genuine love.

3) Be confident but courteous at your office or school about expressing your faith. The fine legal line about expressions of religious belief at our workplace and at public schools is often difficult to navigate, but in many cases, people who crossed the line, did it without asking for advice or counsel. During holidays for instance, talk to the school principal or ask your boss if you can set a nativity scene or other religious object on your desk. I’ve discovered that when we approach people in a spirit of love, God often works in those situations for our good. And even if your request is rejected, how you handle that rejection can sometimes be a greater witness than what you hoped to accomplish in the first place.

Become a media activist. Not in a controlling or pushy way, but start sharing your concerns about local advertising or corporations that violate your personal or moral convictions. You’ll often be amazed and the number of people in your community who feel the same way but were afraid to act.

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  1. Thanks for the illustrations. It amazes me that “Christians” try to get their way by being jerks and are jerks when we don’t get our way. Keep the theme of kindness and gentleness alive in future posts.

    I also want to ask a question that I don’t want simplistic and obvious answers to (I believe we can all figure those out on our own.)

    Why must Christians have their way? What is it that drives us to be rude, mean, etc. in order to have things the way we think they should be?

  2. It's quite understandable.  We believe we've found the Truth, and simply want to share that with others.  But being fallen human beings, we also sometimes tend to push a little too hard, and many become jerks in the process.  Also, I personally believe that any organization like religion, sports, education, etc, are good places for jerks to gravitate because they're with like people, feel comfortable, and have the chance to express their opinions – no matter how wacky they may be…

  3. Why must Christians insist on riding roughshod over others? It seems to me that Christians know what is good, and want that which is good for everyone. Unfortunately we forget that virtue is impossible without the option of vice. We make the mistake of thinking that we can make a good society by legally mandating virtue.

     Islamic law mandates virtue, and we all cringe in horror. We watch public stonings, mourn honor killings and see young men's forearms hacked off in the public square. Further, we see people subjected to taxes, confiscation of property and other coercive acts intended to coerce conversion to Islam. We need to be more respectful than Islam, and invite people to join us in following Christ.

    Forcing people to behave as if they were Christians whether they follow Christ or not is problematic for many reasons. For one, it blurs the distinction between salvation and damnation. There's no outward sign. Everyone is forced to walk the same treadmill, regardless of conviction. This allows people to shuffle along in a state of complacency, never having the choice between good and evil defined for them in a personal sense.

     Further, force incurs great resistance in people of integrity. They rightly sense that coercion is evil, and naturally resist any organization that employs coercive tactics. You can't use the tactics of evil to affect good. The dichotomy is definitive.

    God wants people to exercise their will and choose to follow Christ. Since Christians don't always appreciate that the human will is an important part of God's design, we sometimes dabble in Dominionism. We're not trying to be bullies, but that's what we're doing in many cases.

    When we try to influence advertising, we need to exress our desire for change in non-coercive, nonthreatening ways.  Phil's got some great ideas here.

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