29 January 2012
The gospel... according to a Beer Company
by Dr Rod Thompson
The billboard caught my eye. Written across a background graphic of young people partying in a nightclub were the words: “DESTINY is calling, but BEER is on the other line.” What should one choose; Destiny... or beer? In the bottom corner of the billboard were the words, “Hello BEER,” accompanied by a bottle of Carlton Dry Beer. In the mind of the advertiser, the decision was clear. Don’t respond to the call from Destiny on Line 1. Pick up the call from Beer on Line 2. Here was another ad championing the ‘here and now’ over the future, the good life in terms of ‘Beer’ not ‘Destiny’. To really live one needed to make the decision to take hold of a Beer and ignore the call from Destiny.
My first response was that the advertisers have presented us with a false choice. All of us need to work out the relationship between beer and destiny, between the ‘here and now’ and the future, rather than set them against each other. God’s vision for life is not only about destiny and the future. It is also about food and drink and the ‘here and now’. Decisions about wining and dining, dance and music, parties and alcohol are as much substantial, life shaping decisions as are those about destiny. The two cannot be set against each other in any absolute sense. The advertiser had, as it often the case with advertisers, set up a false dichotomy to market their product.
My second response was to explore the vision that had given rise to the advertisement. I went to the Carlton United Brewers website (www.cub.com.au) and was fascinated to find a carefully articulated set of beliefs about humanness, faith and life. According to the website, Carlton United Brewers believes that “we’re united by the bond only a beer can create and a belief that if a whole lot more people raised a beer in friendship, the world would be a better place.” The company is “non-apologetic” concerning this belief. The website states that Carlton United Brewers is “united as a belief-driven organisation.” It believes that its product will make the world a better place.
Advertising companies are indeed belief-driven. Indeed, intelligent, effective advertisers such as Carlton United Brewers are in the business of marketing an alternative announcement and vision of the good life – in effect an alternative gospel – on terms other than the gospel of Christ as we understand it through the Bible.
It is for this reason that we ought to pay them close attention. As those who believe that lasting bonds of love and friendship are genuinely created through participation in the gospel of Christ and the renewal of all things through the grace of God, we find ourselves not only standing against advertisements such as this one, but also seeking to redeem their messages – to fill them out, as it were, in relationship with the greater message of the gospel of Christ. God in Christ seeks to renew our humanness in relation to dance and drink, to partying and celebration, as well as to secure our destiny in the renewed creation.