Despite the Yankee education, I'm still a Southern boy at heart. I love opera and country music, cricket and Nascar. So it was, on a recent summer evening, that I was watching the races when I saw my first political ad of the presidential race.
Now look, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out my political leanings. They're pretty clear in the first few minutes you know me. And this ad was for the candidate I'll probably vote for come November. But it was the beginning of the end for my television viewing for the next few months. I haven't yet decided at what point I'll turn off all of the channels with commercials, though I suspect it will be at the point when I see two political ads in the same hour.
In my last call I served as the Associate Pastor of a church in another state that was trying to reinvent itself, to halt years of declining membership and once again become relevant in the lives of young adults and young families.
This was no small challenge, as much of American Christianity got stuck in another decade, and the general public sees it as a religion obsessed with wedge issues around sexuality. Churches are successfully revitalizing everyday, coming back from the brink, meeting folks where they are, in the real world, and doing what churches have always done: provide meaning andcommunity. But it's hard work, terribly risky.
It happened that a major congregational meeting was needed to move us to the next step in our process.
We needed to restructure the church to make it more flexible and responsive, switching from the bureaucratic model of prior generations to a entrepreneurial network system. We also needed to invest in the future, and stop hording the endowment as if it alone would keep the church alive. This meant, quite simply, a deficit budget.
The problem was this: vote was scheduled the week after a gubernatorial election. And the attack ads were flying. All of the fear, anger and hatred generated by political campaigns found its way into our church community. It was a disaster of timing.
Advertisers, especially those who work on political campaigns, use every psychological trick in the book. The ads have one aim: to make us anxious and angry at the other candidate and party. They work at a subconscious level, the use of music and sound effects, image manipulation. If you see it, you are drinking the Koolaid, whether you want to or not. It is soul poison, and we take it in.
Now, I don't happen to believe any of this process is good for democracy. And as a Christian, I can't help but believe that these campaign strategies are sinful. But I'd like to ask a more practical question.
How can those who advocate deregulation of businesses advocate requiring television corporations to carry these ads? I don't care what side you're on, its simply illogical. I can't believe that I am the only one who will turn off commercial-carrying television for months this fall. In fact, I'll be encouraging members of my congregation to do exactly that! Why voluntarily drink the deadly Koolaid of anxiety and anger?
While we wait for a saner day in our political process, I'd say the same to you. Don't drink the Koolaid.
No matter how passionately you feel about policies, remember that the other person is probably more like you than you care to admit. Political ads, for your candidate or the opponent, are evil, manipulative, and just plain wrong. Turn them off.