I didn't know what the commercial was for at first, that was hidden. But as the images and voiceover rolled on it was all about you and I, the viewers of the commercial, how we are GOOD PEOPLE. You and I are brave and kind. We do the little things that keep the world together and sane. We are the hidden glue of compassion holding our communities together. We are the unsung heroes.
And then, at the very end, the logo for the beer company appeared. And I asked Jana out loud, "What does beer have to do with me being a good person?"
I think it's safe to say that advertisers have their finger on the pulse of the American psyche, our longings, desires, insecurities, and aspirations. And if you watch enough commercials, like that beer commercial, the message comes through very, very clearly: We want to be good people. And we crave reassurances, because we fear we might not be good people. And so here comes the beer commercial, hitting me right in my anxious sweet spot, telling me that, yes, I am a good person.
Watch commercials and keep a tally of how many of them have nothing to do with the product they are selling but with morality, some vision of goodness. Often, it's about the goodness of the company. Other companies don't care about you, but we do. Or, here are all the good things our company is doing, from caring for our workers, to helping our communities, to caring for the environment. And when the vision of goodness isn't about the company, it's about the goodness of our moral heroes, the company just taking some time to honor doctors, nurses, first responders, and those serving in the military. And then there's you, the company honoring you for being a good person in your daily acts of courage, generosity, and sacrifice.
So, so many commercials have nothing to do with the products being sold but with selling us a moral perception of ourselves: I am a good person.
Commercials and advertising make it very, very clear. Post-Christian doesn't mean anti-Christian or non-Christian. Post-Christian means post-Protestant, carrying forward the moral aspirations and anxieties of our Protestant past. We want to see ourselves as good people, but we fear not measuring up to our high moral standards. We strive to be counted among the righteous, but that striving is haunted by guilt. Each day is filled with sins of omission and commission. And so a beer commercial becomes our priest, offering us absolution: You are a good person.
Sure, we might be "spiritual but not religious," and the Nones might be on the rise, but it it's very clear watching TV that we are the children of the Puritans.