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"And lead us not into temptation...." (May 5, 2007)

    The prayer rises to the heavens millions of times every day; "And lead us not into temptation..." falling, it appears, on deaf ears.  Either that or God is truly trying to keep temptation out of our reach but the power of the multi-billion dollar advertising industry overwhelms His efforts.

      Humankind has never before been battered by so much temptation.  The incessant barrage of advertising hype nags us almost every waking hour from the moment we turn on the radio in the morning to the second we shut down the television at night.  Temptation leers at us from billboards, printed matter, and the computer.  Our telephones and mailboxes deliver a never-ending stream of unwanted advertising which promises to make our lives better if we buy this or that product or service, or vote for candidate "A" instead of "B.".    

      Carefully calculated sales pitches make us hunger for things we don't need.  Modern financing schemes convince us we can easily pay for things we don't need with money we don't have.  Think of it!  The good life for just a little or nothing down!  Talk about temptation! 

      Even churches, which are supposed to help us focus on the simple truths of existence, have been lured into material grandeur.  Mega-auditoriums with state-of-the-art electronics have been built, thanks to mega-mortgages and well-calculated fund-raising drives.   And we must conclude the Lord is hard of hearing because the preacher needs a wireless microphone and high-decibel loudspeakers to get his message heard by the Almighty.  It gives new meaning to the expression "On High."  

      I confess I did the Devil's work for years writing many an advertising piece to convince people they needed more things than they actually did. I persuaded them to trade in  paid-for automobiles on brand new ones that would keep them in hock for three or four years or more.  I've written advertising copy peddling everything from overpriced restaurant meals to costly vacation trips.  In the back of my mind was always the idea that I was selling something that was not needed, but would make life happier.  My job was to make someone lust for a product or experience and to acquire it even though they had to go into debt to get it. "Buy now, pay later" is an advertising mantra. 

     My brag used to be, "In only thirty-seconds I can introduce a product or service, convince you that it is something you need (whether you actually do or not), and then tell  you where to go or whom to call to get it. All in just thirty seconds!"  My job was to lead you into temptation. Look at today's overstuffed attics, cellars, garages, carports,  storage facilities, and gargantuan land fills.  My colleagues and I did rather well in our mission to promote materialism.   

    Advertising is not evil, of course.  If you have invented a better mousetrap and people have infestations of mice, you should call your trap to their attention.  If you have devised a recipe for a tastier, more healthful bread you should advertise it to attract customers.  But it is the constant hype that drives people into debt to satisfy foolish wants that is leading too many citizens down the path to pain and sorrow.  It's a bit like heading to a shopping mall merely to discover something to buy.  Satisfying one's needs is easy.  It's those confounded wants that foul the budget. 

    Budget? Who has a budget these days?  The days when a housewife (stay-at-home variety) would divide coins and bills from her husband's weekly pay packet into envelopes for the household budget file vanished more than sixty years ago.  Personal budgets are calculated in one's mind, if at all, and in case of a lapse it's easy to arrange an equity loan on one's house or get a cash advance from a credit card company.  

    Were I writing commercials today I would compose one on the ancient theme, "If there is anything in your house which you do not consider either useful or beautiful, throw it out!"  But if consumers cut back on their perpetual spending spree  politicians will howl it's killing the economy.   It will even be made to look unpatriotic.  But do it anyway.  Your first duty is to your own future financial stability and not to foreign gadget makers. 

    Remember - God is not going to stop business and industry from leading you into temptation.  And He has already shown helping you resist temptation is not very high on His list of things to do.  That's why your garage is full of stuff and your savings account is practically empty.  

May 5, 2007

Click here for:

My Obituary
The Legislature and Embryos
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive
What Fools, We Mortals
Unvarnished Truth
End-of-everything Blues
My Immigrant Relative
The Eloquent Pogo
Nesta's Complaint
Unionize School Children
Hucksterism Gone Wild
Unmanageable Religious Violence