Persuaders and the Christian Worldview
Advertising’s Goal, Christianity, and Charity
The advertising industry is focused on creating desire. Once enough desire is created in a person, they will purchase the advertised product.
Assuming the Christian worldview, are there moral considerations for fostering and directing desire? How should I, as a disciple of Christ, consider the advertisements that I’m exposed to?
In a world of disproportional distribution of wealth, some people have excess while others experience lack. As a Christian, I understand the call to provide for the needy. Charity becomes a necessity. Passages of Scripture instructing the giving of wealth away include:
· Proverbs 19:17
· Matthew 5:24
· Matthew 7:12
If I ought to treat others how I would desire to be treated, then my spending on unnecessary things should be minimized. My wealth will go somewhere, and the dichotomy is not whether it will go to a pleasure or to a charity, because through sanctification charity becomes a pleasure, but rather it is a choice between fulfilling my flippant wants or the necessitates of others.
The evil art
Advertising easily becomes the art of making the unnecessary, necessary. It is not inherently so, but just as water can sustain, so it can drown. There is legitimacy to being involved in hobbies and work and lifestyles that require the purchase of thing that will not save an orphan’s life in a third-world country. But there is also acclaim for those who forgo frivolous pleasures in the name of providing for another.
In the end, as my works are tested by fire before my entrance into Heaven, my purchasing every new Wilson tennis racket will be of little significance. What will be significant is the time when I rallied students to buy necessities for a family in poverty, or the instances where I gave money to beggars.
The Burden of Fault
Ultimately, it is the victim’s fault for becoming the victim. The advertisers are knowledgeable and shrewd and they got that way through study and reflection. They determined what they wanted to do (persuade to the point of action) and know how to get it done.
They rely largely on the population not having predetermined values and absolute beliefs by which to make determinations. It is easy for a human, especially in a consumeristic culture, to be pulled from pleasure to pleasure. The fact that advertisers exploit this is not admirable, but it is the fault of the crowd that they have not adopted a worldview that provides a benchmark by which to accept or reject persuasive prompts.
“People have no idea why they do what they do,” said advertising guru Clotaire Rapaille.
This proves true for the majority. Aristotle compares people who have not taken the time to examine their lives and question the purpose of their actions to animals — animals being the quintessence of beings who are lured between a slew of desires.
Once the population snaps out of philosophical ignorance and weak forms of hedonism, they will be able to discern if their purchase of a product contributes to their now determined values.
Sufficiency of the Christian Worldview
The Christian worldview provides man with such values. The Scriptures warn against the life devoted to acquiring wealth and possessions. They provide an absolute moral framework for actions like sex outside of marriage, murder, and gossip. They also provide us with a goal — to make disciples as we go.
Ultimately, the matter boils down to desire. Does a man find pleasure in is personal gains or the gains of others? As Christians, we can desire the betterment of others based on our reflection of the Word. Greater detail can be found here about motives for Christian charity.
On my honor, I have watched The Persuaders in its entirety.