Friday, September 21, 2007

A Theology of Advertising?

Seeing as how I make my living off of advertising (something I would never have predicted), and also do my best to live as a confessing Christian, I periodically wonder how those two sides of my life connect. If the point of theology is, as one of my profs indicated, "to think God's thoughts after Him," a "theology of advertising", then, would be an attempt to understand advertising from God's point of view: to hear God's thoughts on what advertising is, what it should be, and how a Christian should (or should not be) connected with it.

There's clearly more here than I can do justice in one post – and I'm not going to try. But at random intervals over the next several weeks, I'm planning to offer up thoughts on different aspects of advertising, considered from the divine perspective. Some questions that I'd like to consider include: Is advertising inherently problematic, or is there a legitimate role for advertising in Christian economic theory? Are some kinds of advertising better than others, and if so, what makes them better? What guidelines should a Christian who makes his living in the advertising industry follow?

To some extent, all of these questions presuppose the idea that I hold to reasonably coherent and systematic views on theology and ethics – which is a fairly large supposition, and probably inaccurate. Even just "educated" views is probably too much to hope for: I don't have nearly enough time to do the research that I'd like. But my paycheck has had its origin in advertising dollars for the last seven years, so I've had the opportunity to see the industry from the inside, and during that time I've participated in numerous detailed debates over what constitutes ethical behavior. And despite the fact that advertising makes up a significant and growing percentage of the world's economy – approaching $300 billion annually in the US alone – I'm not aware of anyone else doing this. (Let me know if I'm wrong.) So I thought I'd give it a shot.

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