I watch Super Bowl ads to better understand the mood of our nation. Some of the best minds in advertising have been hired to analyze the national mindset – with the intent to manipulate our purchasing behavior. This year the consensus seems to favor the need for relief. If the ads have their intended effect, you will come away with a happy, positive attitude. It’s “let the good times roll” and “cast your cares away.”
Ad agency executives sense the country is looking for a reprieve from its problems, including the surging coronavirus, an uncertain economy, and political divisiveness. Susan Credle, FCB’s Chief Creative Officer, notes, “People want to laugh and they want to feel normal again.” Sarah Long of Mars Wrigley believes people “want to smile, they want to be positive.”
In recent years ads have tackled heavy issues like cyberbullying, domestic violence, and gender stereotyping. This year the ads will pay little attention to the pandemic because people have been bombarded with “stay safe” or “we’ll all in this together.” “Every marketer is being very careful right now because of all the tumultuous events around the world,” observed John Patroulis of WPP PLC’s Grey. “You don’t want your ad to be misconstrued or be controversial,” he added.
I must admit the ads in these last few years have been much easier on the male ego, since culture seems to have accepted the idea of “toxic masculinity.” As you watch the ads and enjoy the game, however, my suggestion would be: think the opposite. The ads tell us to avoid our pain; I say, “Stand in the pain.” See yourself as “a wounded healer.”
First, Super Bowl ads can tell us something about life but they cannot deliver the “Good News.” It’s all make-believe. Ads only touch the surface of our lives; they are like bandages trying to hide the wounds of broken hearts and wounded souls. Our nation needs deep soul care. We desperately need Jesus the gentle healer. “… It was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us… it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins! (Is. 53:4-5 MSG). There is a place to go with pain. Bring it to Jesus. Only he can truly heal the hurting heart.
Secondly, the ad industry might discern the state of our nation better than the Church. But it only covers up the pain. If we are to bring healing to our fractured nation, we need to address the wounds of the heart. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18).
Thirdly, don’t use ads as an excuse to escape from reality. We are to stand in the pain as men in our ordained places as husbands and fathers. The enemy wants to take us out. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). But we are called to stand in the gap. “I looked for a man… [to] stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ez. 22:30).
Fourthly, deliberately make fun of the ads, knowing they are in conflict with your spirit. They accentuate our struggles, warring against our spirit. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…” (Gal 5:16-17).
Mary Eberstadt is a sociologist who studies faith and family. She wrote recently in First Things, “… Summer 2020 signals something new. The triply disenfranchised children of the West have achieved critical mass. They have slipped the surly bonds of their atomized childhoods; they have found their fellow raging sufferers and formed online families; and they have burst as a destructive force onto the national consciousness en masse, left and right, as never before.”
Like me, many of you may wonder why so many young men expressed such anger last summer with their rhetoric and destruction of property. I often ask whether this might be due to absentee fathers.
Eberstadt notes, “The riots amount to social dysfunction on parade. Six decades of social science have established that the most efficient way to increase dysfunction is to increase fatherlessness.” I continually maintain in this blog the importance of fathers and their commitment to their families. The real issue in culture as I learned years ago from Derek Prince is “renegade fathers.”
Eberstadt believes the riots are a “frantic flight to collective political identities” that have primordial origins. Rioting shows in part the “invisible crisis of Western paternity.” When the family has no father, a vacuum is created in which lost young men seek family substitutes. Quoting a study by the Minnesota Psychological Association, “A high percentage of gang members come from father-absent homes…possibly resulting from a need for a sense of belonging…the gang leader may fill the role of father.”
The problem of fatherless young men finding identity in gang families is not going to disappear. More angry and lost young men are going to find their way into these gang-families. “They have been left alone in a cosmos with nothing to guide them, not even a firm grip of what constitutes their basic humanity, and no means of finding the way home” (Deborah Savage). Eberstadt warns, “The dispossessed children who roam the streets in search of yet more destruction…will not go away until the crisis that has unhinged them and severed them from their own is ameliorated.”
So, what can we anticipate in the coming days? I believe there will be more riots. We will see young angry, disinherited men on the streets expressing their anger at our culture. What does this mean for the reader of this blog? Here are some suggestions:
First, give priority to the kingdom of God, in which parents hold an honored place. The fourth commandment tells us to honor your father and mother. There is this promise added, “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you…” (Deut. 5:16). Proverbs 20:20 gives us a warning, “If a man curses his father and mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.” Honor your own parents for the role they played (or continue to play) in your life.
Second, be a godly man. We cannot alleviate fatherlessness in our nation. But we can be examples of godly men who live out godly parenting. We not only honor those placed above us, but also seek to be servant-leaders in our sphere of influence.
Third, commit to pass on a healthy paternal principle to the next generation. Find a fatherless young man to mentor… Be an involved dad… Read and discuss Mary Eberstadt’s article… This blog is one man’s attempt to be a voice speaking to the curse of fatherlessness in our culture.
Fourth, remember that God opposes the proud (those opposed to authority), but gives his grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5). May we all be men under authority.