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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Language of God

Six years ago, the United Church of Christ unveiled the "God is Still Speaking" ad campaign, which has featured the "Bouncer," "Steeples," and "Ejector Pew" ads. This morning, the United Church of Christ rolled out a new advertising/identity video, "The Language of God" as the next piece in this series.

Unlike the previous ads which were designed as 30-second television commercials, "The Language of God" is a YouTube style video, 90 seconds long, featuring a photo and video montage with snappy guitar music. The video is clearly aimed at Generation X and younger, but that comes as no surprise, as the 40-and-younger demographic is largely missing from most churches these days and is the population segment most likely to see church as irrelevant to modern life.

Content-wise, "The Language of God" is something of a hybrid of the previous entries in this campaign. Like the "Steeples" ad and unlike "Bouncer" and "Ejector Pew," the ad is not at all confrontational. It also opts against the sticky sentimentality of the "Steeples" ad, presenting, instead, the church in action. The photos and videos provide images of the church being relevant, with people protesting against discrimination, working for immigrant rights, and providing disaster relief. Ecology, worship, baptism, communion, prayer, and Bible study figure prominently into the mix, as well.

The faces are, of course, a cross-section of humanity with children and the elderly; black, white, and many shades of brown; able-bodied and handicapped. There's about a three second clip of a lesbian wedding and a picture of what one presumes to be an interracial gay couple and their son. Images of marriage equality are interspersed with images of racial equality. These images are sequenced and presented in such a way that they lead the viewer toward acceptance and celebration of the diversity of people and life experience shown.

As the photos and videos cycle, the "language" of God appears on the screen:


Compassion.

Love.

Community.

Justice.

Equality.

Praise.

Finally, the video ends with the tag-line, "Find your church, Find yourself." Inviting people to view the church as part of their journey of self-discovery may seem self-evident to people who are already part of a vibrant congregation, but it is a new idea for many who have never seen the church as anything other than a bastion of nostalgia and social conservatism. This is an important invitation and I wish that someone had come up with it for the earlier entries in the God is Still Speaking campaign.

I like this video. I like the way it highlights who we are as the United Church of Christ, how it interprets our understanding of God in a way that makes sense in today's world, and how it shows that our belief leads us to actually make a difference in the world. While I could wish that the pictures popped up more slowly so I could take it all in, I've satisfied my curiosity by watching the video several times and making liberal use of the pause button.

Kudos to the folks in Cleveland who put this together. It makes me proud to be part of a church that is so inclusive, active, diverse, and relevant.


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