I have mixed feelings about technology. Sometimes I am irritated by how much it consumes rather than provides. At other times I’m thankful for bringing me what I otherwise would have missed. This past month I’ve been happy to have access to March Madness. It’s only been the past few years that they’ve broadcast each college basketball game of the tournament on the internet. The only down side, especially when watching the games live, is having to endure the commercials. Even when watching is free, you still pay for it.
One commercial in particular caught my attention. Although it was quite boring, it provides a great example of a reading of Scripture outside the context of the church. I am speaking of a UPS commercial (view below) in which they identify the many small companies as being “Davids.” With the help of UPS’s logistics, they can beat the “Goliaths.” In fact, UPS will not only help them beat the Goliaths, but they will also help Davids become Goliaths.
Take note of how the non-believing corporation and its sycophants interpret sacred Scripture. First of all, they acknowledge the pervasiveness of the biblical narrative in the U.S. culture. This story is so widespread that those who hear this commercial will already know the tale of David and Goliath without having to be told it. Next they touch Scripture. UPS recognizes that David was small – at least in comparison to Goliath. Then they apply Scripture, equating David with small businesses. So far, not so bad.
UPS’s next step is troublesome. They claim that they can turn Davids into Goliaths. This unmasks their own understanding of power. In their deconstruction of the biblical story, UPS do not recognize that this victory is not a testimony to David’s strength, but to his weakness. UPS does not value smallness, weakness or faithfulness. In their reconstruction of the story, they depict Goliath not as the enemy but as the goal. He is not contemptible opponent that bases his actions on his own power and that taunts God and God’s people. UPS sees him rather as the powerful one, the likes of which David is to become.
That seems to me not only a wrong reading of Scripture but a bad reading of Scripture. What is worse is that UPS situates itself in the place of God. That is blasphemy. That is idolatry. In their commercial, it is UPS, not God, that gives power to the small through its logistics. And, as with any idolatry, it is demonic. Its explicit, albeit unwitting, goal is to turn the saints (i.e. the Davids) into devils (i.e. the Goliaths). While this “evil” may merely lie at the level of advertisement and rhetoric, it is to our own detriment when we underestimate the power of stories to shape our culture and society.
But I wonder how many Christians watched this commercial without recognizing UPS’s violent and violating reading of the church’s sacred text. In a time in which those who claim to be part of the church are burning the sacred texts of other religions, I wonder if it’s not more appropriate to sanctify our own. Scripture may not be the church’s private possession, but the church does claim to be of the Book and of the Word. While I don’t think that all of the readings of Scripture from within the context of the church are necessarily correct, I do think that it is only from within the context of the church that readings can be judged correct or incorrect. In the case of the UPS advertisement, it is the church’s place to humbly stand up and denounce their misuse of our sacred book.
While we may not have the resources of UPS or UPS’s capacity for mass communication, we, in our smallness, weakness and faithfulness, can say with David:
You come with sword and spear and million dollar ad campaigns; but I come in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. You and your manipulative readings will fall, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:45-47).