Friday, January 28, 2011

This Is My Body, Spiced With Cool Ranch Seasonings for You

So Doritos has decided not to air this Super Bowl ad, in which a desperate priest revives his congregation by adding trans fats and artificial coloring to Holy Communion. Here's the commercial:

I doubt that Doritos ever seriously intended to air this (it's among a number of potential ads they placed on their website and rejected, including 2 gay-themed ones), but it's still a piece of work. First off, notice the ways in which the filmmakers took care to cover their asses: they never say the priest's denomination. They never say they're serving Holy Communion, despite the recognizable aspects of the ritual. They know that most audiences will assume that the troubled church is Catholic, and that they're swapping out the wafers and wine during the service.

And part of me admires the sheer gall of that. But obviously, this commercial is incredibly problematic for anybody who respects religion. Let's look at a couple of the not-so-funny things that are being mocked here:

- Lack of church attendance. This is a major issue in many Christian churches throughout the country, especially when we're talking about mainstream Catholics and Protestants. (The mega-churches are doing just fine.) In terms of the Catholic church, the problem of shuttering churches is directly tied to a drop in faith and funds after the molestation scandal. Ha...ha?

- Holy Communion = Dullsville. See, here the thing -- Holy Communion is a ritual. It's not supposed to be exciting, it's supposed to be contemplative. The whole reason that Catholics use those wafers in the first place is to emphasize that Holy Communion is not about food, but about something greater. It's also a sacrament, based directly on Jesus's last act before he was tortured to death for humanity's sins. Go on, laugh.

The group that created this ad doesn't think they're making fun of churchgoers, but they are. I'm all for finding humor in religion, but not for mocking a two thousand year old ritual that harms no one, has given great comfort to many, and encourages deep spiritual contemplation. American culture, as a rule, does not encourage spiritual contemplation. That is part of the reason that more people don't go to church, and part of the reason why more people should. (Side note: for a contemporary look at Holy Communion, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles is an incredible meditation on the subject by an atheist-turned-Christian.)

Incidentally, here's another rejected Christianity-themed ad, this by a guy named Richard Belfry who sells shirts that say "Jesus Hates Obama." Yep, that's his whole business: selling shirts that say "Jesus Hates Obama." Why does Jesus hate Obama? His website doesn't say. In fact, Belfry has been making the press rounds, saying that of course Jesus doesn't really hate Obama. Lighten up, people! It's a joke! It's funny because Jesus obviously has the same political beliefs as you! And if Jesus was here today, he wouldn't be healing the sick and lame -- he'd be protesting Obamacare!

Sigh. I just want to be the funny blogger, guys. Why are you making this so hard?