By Eugene C. Scott
Did your team win Sunday? Even if you didn’t watch it, most of you know what I’m referring to. The Super Bowl. Yesterday 100 million people watched the Super Bowl on TV. Or at least 100 million people attended a party where the game was on TV and everyone stopped talking, eating, and drinking long enough to decide if the latest $S3.5 million commercial was worth it. 100 million! Imagine, only 125 million voted in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. What is our attraction to this spectacle? What does the Super Bowl say about us?
We Went to a Party and a Football Game Broke Out
This last football season we had a crowd of friends and family over to watch Tim Tebow and the Broncos most Sunday afternoons after worship. It was a blast. We laughed, ate, played games, talked theology, life, kids, books, movies, hunting, politics, and even drank a brew or two. Some of us even watched the game. I love a good party.
Apparently I’m not alone. Some say 90% of those watching the Super Bowl did so at a party. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest party of the year. And it’s not really about football. That’s one of my favorite things about being human. We’re always looking for an excuse to get together with friends and family and celebrate.
Apparently we’re not alone. God loves a good party too. The Bible is full of parties. At one party recorded in the Old Testament, David danced naked in the streets when the Ark of the Covenant was moved into town. In the years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church gathered to celebrate and worship, a party we mistakenly belittle by naming it “going to church.” They called them “love feasts,” which featured a full meal, with real wine and real food–not just tasteless wafers and grape juice in handy plastic cups.
But I digress. What does the biggest party of the year say about us? It reflects the fact that we were created to connect with each other and will look for any good reason to do so.
Being Sold an Empty Shell Game
But some unsavory types have crashed the party. With 100 million potential consumers watching, these uninvited snarks spare no expense to sell us anything and everything. That $3.5 million for 30 seconds ads we so love to watch, equals more than $111,000 a second.
And it’s not just beer, cars, and Doritos for sale. Human trafficking for sex at the Super Bowl is becoming a major problem.
This is one of my least favorite things about being human. We can be bought and sold. We have allowed ourselves to become nothing more than consumers. Most major interactions in modern culture are defined by what we get out of them what we can consume.
Listen to casual conversation. We often talk about relationships–and especially sex–in terms of getting something.
In religion, I hear people (myself included) talk about how God answered prayers (gave them what they wanted), or how they did or did not get anything out of church. Politics too. We often vote for the person who promises us the most. Tax cuts or tax benefits. Roseanne Barr is running for President on the platform that she will forgive all school, credit card, and mortgage debt. And she’d win on that platform too, if we could take her seriously.
I know most of us want to deny this. We don’t like being sold a bill of goods. But many of the things featured in Super Bowl ads and that we now deem essential for life, we did without for most of human history. And these companies are not run by dummies. They spend billions because we’re buying. What else does the Super Bowl say about us? We’ve allowed ourselves to be reduced to mere consumers. And it is a major reduction. I believe our design and purpose is higher than to buy more and more and more.
God made us co-creators, with a small c. We are artists, writers, fathers, mothers, friends, football players, children, partiers, workers, explorers, students, whatever. We may be worth billions to Master Card but our lives are priceless to God. Yes, we need to exchange our work for money and goods. And the better the work and goods often the higher the price. But this exchange is a means to an end. Our lives and work and relationships have eternal value, at least according to God. We were not created only to consume or be consumed. Watching the Super Bowl is a reminder that all the shells in this shell-game are empty.
Sunday my team won. And lost. No, not the Giants (though I was pulling for them) or the Patriots. We lost. Everyday we allow ourselves to be yanked from a lofty place into the mire where we are treated and treat one another as property or goods. We were bought and sold. But we won too, every time we gather together and participate in one of the main things God created us to do: connect, party, relate, and not be alone.
Eugene C Scott, to his eternal shame, once bought a Chevy Citation. And if the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl again, you’re ll invited to the party. He is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. It’s a church that loves a good party. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page.
By Eugene C. Scott