You Cannot Serve Both God and Madison Avenue

Of all the advertising schemes promoted by Madison Avenue, is there ONE which does not appeal to human depravity one way or another? Is there a marketing campaign which does not depend on the seven deadly sins? Is there a sales pitch which is not at base contempt for the moral fiber of human beings? Maybe they know what they’re doing…

Pride, envy, avarice, lust, gluttony, sloth, and rage. Sound like anyone you know?

All prime means of seducing the human spirit. All employed through the ages with vigor by Mammon and the votaries of Mammon.

Think how salesmen are trained (I once went through a lengthy class, before I realized I didn’t have it in me.) and what psychological forces they are taught to use. Is there any sales mechanism which is not designed to target the worst of human failings?

Consider how, in keeping up with the Jonesesfeeling the pride of ownershipknowing you deserve the best, you have succumbed to the base elements of human nature.

Consider also how if you do as the uncritical economic animals (homo economicus) in responding to these appeals, you will have not the wherewithal in time or resources to help the needy and downtrodden. (Not to mention the aversion you will acquire for having those smelly unwashed ragged muffins near YOUR shiny baubles.)

Consider how much you really and truly needed your last ten purchases, and why you made them.

Are you behaving like a human being? Like a Person who is after more than material trinkets? Like a person seeking the Best?

Or, are you a reactive alimentary canal with easily tingled reproductive apparatus and conditioned to dispense cash whenever a bell rings?

You cannot serve both God (or whatever your highest value is) and Mammon.

Adbusters did this cute little thing a few years back. It is well done, just like what you see in the slicks.

And so damnably true.

How many would buy Mammon today, if the price were right?

It’s not just about going on a shopping spree. There are other things which both support and depend on Mammon.  Like politics.  (This is not about specific politics, but the general trends, which are cultural, and not outside my beat.)

At the more mundane level, quite disregarding the rallying cries used to motivate the troops for combat, politics is about power and money (and privilege, one of the perks of power and money, thus forming an unholy trinity).  Those who possess the aforementioned have been labeled various ways: oligarchs, bourgeoisie, elites, etc.  Here, I hearken back to the old Roman name for them, Patricians. They will do anything to hang onto what they’ve got.  Since long before Rome was no more than a goat path across a hill in Latium.

Opposed to them are not the peasants, the have-nots (relatively), but the intermediate level, the burghers, the professionals, the petty nobility.  These will do anything to replace those who already possess, even make a (very temporary) alliance with the despised group(lowest) from which they came.

George Orwell wrote of this relationship between the High the Middle, and the Low in Nineteen Eighty-four.

The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim – for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives – is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims.

One is entitled to ask, what does this have to do with the topic at hand?  I’m glad you asked.

There are many people who call themselves Liberals or Conservatives (without, as-a-matter-of-fact knowing the least shred what those words really mean), who justify their stance with selected shibboleths and platitudes.

Feeding the hungry is OK, but we MUST STOP ABORTION.

Yes, ISIS is murdering Christians, but we MUST STOP LGBT OPPRESSION HERE AT HOME.

And, if that’s the way they think, nothing can stand in the way of attaining their goals.  They will soon be advocating the most un-Godly extremities to achieve Utopia (Erewhon, nibbana whatever.)

But, you cannot mix and match, one from column A and one from column B.  Because, by definition, the things with which the World (and the Flesh, and the Devil) are concerned are in opposition to true Religion or true Humanity. They are Mammon.

You cannot be a “Liberal Christian” or a “Conservative Christian”.   If one is a Christian first, one will be against some parts of the Conservative ideology and against some parts of the Liberal ideology. For those parts with which you can in good conscience agree, you will not be seen as a useful ally, but as a gullible tool.  For those parts you will (inevitably) oppose, you will be castigated as a Traitor to the Cause. And if your politics is upstream of your metaphysics, Oh My!

No political party, by its very nature, will adhere to the social teaching of a Faith.  By their very nature, they cannot, since a political party is a device for gaining and keeping power.  POWER!

In talking to religious folk, politicians will emphasize X as being the part of the Faith which is Most Important (because it conforms with their ideology) and the remainder as secondary, optional, or naïve.

As C. S. Lewis noted in The Screwtape Letters, the Devil first gets you to thinking X is a necessary ingredient to your faith.  Christianity Plus X.  Then, subtly, X becomes the most important element of the Gospel.  X Plus Christianity.  Finally, X becomes the only important thing, and Christianity is discarded as a childish fantasy or an obstruction to achieving X.  X Alone and Supreme. It happens with belief systems other than Christianity also.

Compromise a little bit here, modify a tad bit there, soon you are far away from where you began, you are in Hell.

You cannot serve God and Mammon.

You can not serve both God and Madison Avenue.