The Episcopal Church…slices carrots?

The good people at 815 had to know it would inspire some mockery. Apparently they also felt it would inspire people. I’m talking about the new ad campaign of the Episcopal Church. Here’s the tag: “Get closer to God. Slice carrots.”

I’m not making this up. As my blogging friend Peter Mayer points out, many people who are not in church have no problem with Jesus. So why don’t we talk about Jesus or, I don’t know, God? If we’re trying to compete based on good works, I’m afraid we’re doomed. The Red Cross or any number of other entities is much more effective at “getting things done” than we are.

Church is about salvation. I think the reason our attendance is plummeting is that we’ve forgotten that. The related problem is that liberals got wishy-washy about salvation. Some of us let others define it. Salvation is not (repeat after me) about getting into heaven. Check out the New Testament on salvation, and you learn that it’s about eternal life, which starts in this early pilgrimage. The Greek word (sozo) that gets translated as “salvation” is also translated as “wholeness” or “health” or “redemption.” So why can’t we talk about that?

To put it another way, we’re in the transformation biz, not the good deeds biz. Our good deeds spring from our faith. To be sure, sometimes our faith comes as we serve Jesus in the “least of these.” But mostly when we focus on good deeds, we’re repeating a mistake that Anglicans sorted out 450 years ago. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about works-righteousness. You don’t get into heaven by doing good things. You can’t get saved by doing good things. You can’t fix the church by doing good things.

So, sure, I’m OK with slicing carrots or clothing people or giving money to those who have less. We need to do all of those things. But we mustn’t confuse them with our purpose. Sadly, I’m afraid the new ads don’t convey any really good reason to climb out of bed and go to a (probably not friendly) Episcopal Church.

Go watch the ad. What do you think?

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13 Responses

  1. Ann says:

    Some help with all those knife wielding newcomers.

  2. Ann says:

    Click on “some”

  3. Scott Gunn says:

    Ann, yes, I laughed a lot when I saw that. I thought about linking to it, but in view of the many parishioners who may glance at my blog these days, I was wary of some of the humor.

    That said, thanks for linking to the MadPriest. I really enjoyed it.

    It’s almost as if 815 said “how can we make an ad that will inspire humor?”

    Pax,
    Scott

  4. Bryan says:

    Thanks for this, Scott. You’re touching on some issues around salvation that a clergy colleague and I recently raised on my blog and over at the Anglican Centrist. So I couldn’t help but flag your piece on my blog as well, because you’re touching on something here that’s absolutely crucial to our ability to remember who we are and what we’re called to be and to do as a Church.

  5. Peter says:

    The best part of the video is the guy’s voice. Doesn’t he sound like he did all the science filmstrips we watched in fifth grade? What, Wilford Brimley wasn’t available?

  6. Phil Snyder says:

    Hi Scott,

    What a refreshing message to read! From what I’ve read (in Barclay and other places), the word “eternal” is a qualitative word, not a quantitative one. We think of “eternal life” as a life that doesn’t end. In reality, it is God’s life that God gives us. It is a different quality of life – a new life.

    This is what the Church is to be about. Making disciples (apprentices, really) of Jesus Christ who have this eternal life and spread it to others.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  7. Perpetua says:

    Excellent. Thank you so much for explaining this so clearly.

  8. bls says:

    What does it mean, to be a “disciple of Jesus”? Is it just a lot of talking about Jesus? What’s the point of “eternal life”? To talk about Jesus forever?

    What exactly do “health” and “wholeness” consist of? What is “redemption”?

    Just curious.

  9. John says:

    Setting aside Matthew 25 for a moment, I see a spot inviting us to “get closer to God” and serve others. I find serving others positively transformational, and I’m not sure that I ever feel closer to God than when I am feeding the hungry.

    Today at the Mission does a better job of talking about that than I can.

    Scott, what do you make of those last verses in Matthew 25?

  10. Phil Groom says:

    Yes and no, Scott: faith without works is dead, just as works without faith is dead. Can’t have one without t’other. Yes, church is about salvation — but it’s about far more than that.

    Your statement “we’re in the transformation biz, not the good deeds biz” strikes me as a classic case of being right in what you affirm, wrong in what you deny. What kind of transformation is it if it doesn’t lead to good deeds? It’s not either/or — it’s both/and. Let’s not simply talk about what we believe: let’s live it. That’s the advertising the church needs.

  11. Scott Gunn says:

    Phil,

    Context is probably everything. If you read my post, you’ll see that I affirm that need to do good things. As you say, they are the fruits of good faith. But over here in ECUSA, it’s easy to read official pronouncements with nary a mention of anything that would tell you it’s even vaguely Christian. People have begun to equate the MDGs (which I wholly support) with the Church and its purpose. I preach about the need to have a live that’s visible and transforming regularly, but I think we must not equate works with faith. That was my point. Does that clarify things in a useful way?

    Pax,
    Scott

  12. Phil Groom says:

    Thanks for coming back to me, Scott. Yes, I think I see more where you’re coming from now. Revisiting the ‘slice carrots’ ad — seems to me it’s a call to church members to live out their faith: a reminder that, as you rightly say, salvation is not about getting to heaven: it’s about how we live here and now. As Christian Aid like to tell us, it’s about life before death. And surely reminding people of that can only be a good thing?

  13. Maybe slicing carrots is one of the few things episcopalians can agree on???!!!

    Seriously, good post. We’re way too shy about talking about Jesus.

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