The Language of God – The UCC’s Latest Ad

Written by Joel on April 17th, 2010

The UCC has been building hype over the past few weeks for its latest advertisement which was released yesterday (April 16) exclusively on the internet. It was meant to go viral – the UCC asked members to post to Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. It seems to be off to a good start with over 4,000 YouTube views as of 9:30 PM the day of launch (though there seems to have been an early problem with YouTube’s counter) and nearly 18 thousand views on vimeo.

This 90 second ad offers quite a different style though the same message as previous UCC ad campaigns. Specifically “Bouncer,” and “Ejector” which suggested that other Christian denominations actively discriminate against minorities, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the LGBT community. “The Language of God” is much more subtle, and thankfully so. This new ad does not take cheap shots at the stereotypes of other Christian communities. Instead it  simply speaks from a UCC perspective; reaffirming its mission for abundant inclusion.

I appreciated the toned-down, not so in-your-face-progressive approach of “The Language of Love” ad. Still, it was quite underwhelming. For the most part it was a series of still photos set to music with words overlaid: “Compassion, Love, Community, Justice, Hope, Equality, and Praise.” All so very generic and vague. Words strung together, diluted of any real meaning. This has been done, and over done before in other sentimental Christian videos. Being a UCC insider I can understand the message of inclusion that was being presented, but will that be picked up by those outside the denomination (please leave your comments, non-UCCer’s), and outside the church? Also, one must question that underlying message – is this the only way the UCC wishes to identify itself?- That we are welcoming, period. Where is Christ in this self-identification?

While the ad was much more subtle about the UCC’s position on homosexuality, it was still present. There were a few seconds of a pastor mouthing the words “partners for life” in front of two women. Later there is a still photo of two men sitting on a couch with a child – perhaps a gay adoptive family. These might be easily missed if one wasn’t looking. The UCC is congregational which means that the denomination does not make decisions for the local churches. The questions of homosexuality within Christianity are still highly controversial, even within the UCC. For the UCC to decide at a denominational level its stance on a controversial issue and then advertise it as the stance of UCC churches everywhere is disingenuous to congregational governance. Many may disappointed when they walk into UCC congregations which are not Open And Affirming. Further, it suggests that the time for discussion has already passed on an issue which is settled.

The UCC message of the radical inclusion of God’s abundantly free grace is praiseworthy. This call for inclusion is of two tracks. 1) It affirms the catholic nature of the church – that its a faith for all ages, genders, races, nations, abilities (disabilities), and sexual orientations. 2) It is evangelical – the church is called to reach people wherever they are on life’s journey (to use the UCC tag line).

Some find offense at this wide call of welcome. But we must remember that it is aimed at those without church homes or those who have been hurt by the church with the hopes that they may come to discover the redeeming love of Christ. However, the call is not come as you are and stay as you are. God calls sinners, but does not expect them to remain so. The abundant welcome is not the end of the Gospel message – it is only the initial call. That is the kind of formation that is meant to happen in local churches, not a 90 second internet ad.

What did you think of the ad?


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. G. David Shreeves says:

    THANKS, prophet Joel, for sharing
    this brilliant analysis of current issues-and for supporting
    autonomy for congregations in both United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ.

  2. Your church is to be commended for producing an ad of this quality and for engaging with the internet. Thank you for your review of it from a pastor’s perspective within that church.

  3. Dennis Green says:

    There is happiness in Heaven when even one lost person comes to Christ. Why would any church want to stop exploring and excuse itself from the responsibility of the Gospel by claiming the sinful problems of the world (which create outcasts) are too complicated for God to sort out? The UCC message speaks to my heart as the Language of God.

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