There’s been a fair bit of outcry over the solicitations many Evangelical pastors have received to included a shout-out to the new Superman movie, Man of Steel in their Sunday sermons. Skye Jethani’s piece yesterday convinced me to give this some attention. If you don’t know what’s taking place:
MinistryResources.org … contracted with Warner Brothers and DC Comics to create a ministry resource website for the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel.
Well, first he sets the stage:
Since The Passion and Narnia, numerous other films with far less Christian content have tried to sneak into the pulpit including The Road and Evan Almighty. Marketers know that even an indirect endorsement of a movie by a pastor during a sermon can be one of the most effective means of motivating consumers–it’s as close to God endorsing a film as they can get.
It’s also true of books and music; but for the most part, the best thing your local Christian bookstore can hope for — if you still have one — is that it’s a Christian book or a Christian CD that your minister is recommending. Not the latest flick at the local movieplex. Skye reaches a crescendo in this paragraph:
But pastors can’t be naive to think Warner Brothers/DC Comics is trying to aid the church with their Man of Steel Ministry Resource website. They’ve created Man of Steel sermon outlines, sermon video clips, and offered pastors advanced screening tickets for one reason–money. They’re looking to hijack pulpits to push their film and boost box office receipts. On one level I can’t fault them for trying. It is a savvy, if cynical, marketing tactic. What really bothers me, however, is that a decade after The Passion and Narnia, studios still see sermons as worthwhile product placement opportunities because apparently it works.
Yes it works. Offer a pastor a tie-in sermon outline and you make him happy for a week; teach him about the possibility of complimentary movie tickets and you’ve got a friend for life. Yes, your pastor may have taken a bribe.
He ends with a call to action:
Maybe it’s time for pastors to speak up and tell studios and companies like MinistryResources.org that we don’t appreciate attempts to leverage worship gatherings for product placement and marketing. Maybe we need to be more vocal about the holiness and separateness of preaching. Maybe the church should be an oasis from the incessant consumerism of our culture, and perhaps our gatherings should look more like a house of prayer than a den of thieves.
If you share this point of view, join me in sending a kind but honest email to the folks at MinistryResources.org (click here) to request that they respect the church, its ministers, and the sacredness of the pulpit by not trying to manipulate them for marketing purposes. Share this post with your colleagues in ministry, and let’s see what happens.
UPDATE: I wrote this as a comment a few minutes ago, but then decided to add it here as well.
I noticed after I posted this that I was unusually light on post tags, the little keywords under the title that sometimes draw visitors here via search engines. For one of them, apparently I typed, “bribing Evangelical pastors.” Looking at that right now, it sounds like something that would happen in the third world, but instead it’s happening here; which makes me wonder how the story would play out if repeated in the third world: “…Hey have you heard, pastors in America are being given bribes to include commercials in their worship services for the latest movies…”