UCC's Ejector Seat Ad and our local look at the UCC

The UCC “Ejector Seat” ad is very clever and very cute, and much talked about, but unless you go to UCC.org you’ll likely not see it because the big networks have given it the ‘bosh again. But be warned, UCC.org now suffers flash page mania and an audio attack, which I plainly despise. Plus you’ll need to have Macromedia Flash software installed. Bad, bad, bad design. I don’t have it, and the site looks pretty forbidding. Ironic, huh?

Screenshot (2 Apr 2006) of UCC.org without Flash animation
Justin Baeder at Radical Congruency makes some good points about its underlying over-reaching message: that God is positively OK with everything. Or if God isn’t OK with something, we’re not going to talk about it.

It’s the old bait-and-switch. Can you really tell people in no uncertain terms “God’s cool with whatever!” and then expect them to live lives of self-denying discipleship?

The problem with the ad is that ads can’t (or won’t) express that Christian faith means dying to a whole buncha things, some of which make everyday people quite content, or which never trouble the mind. The UCC gets points in my book for suggesting they welcome gay couples — gay singles I think have historically gotten by on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell basis — but even that’s no promise that any given UCC congregation won’t freak when Hubby and I show up.

And we will — in about two hours. We’re not being capricious or provocative, but looking for a church we can both tolerate and will tolerate us. It hasn’t been easy, largely because we want to walk to church, and the variety is desceptively small.

And since there’s a “of the Reformed quadrant” church of the UCC at the end of the alley behind our apartment building, it seems like a likely candidate.

But since a quadrant of my ancestry — later Lutheran — was German Reformed, and since Hubby went to a German Reformed Church/UCC related college, I think we’re reasonably aware of the Reformed contribution to the UCC. (Link to historical short course at UCC.org.) He’s looking for a liturgical church, and the German Reformed, especially in the East, were reasonably warm to the idea. I’ve been before; the service is almost identical to my former pastorate, for good and bad.

I’ll be interesting to see if they say anything about the Ejector Ad; I’ll not bring it up. I’ll report later.

7 Replies to “UCC's Ejector Seat Ad and our local look at the UCC”

  1. ugg.. I am just going to post it here because I sincerly doubt I will ever read Justin Baebar’s site again. Since when is a church welcoming people an acceptance of “whatever”?

    Justins comment is the old “change the message so you can attack the idea behind it”.. This ad says nothing about the theology of the UCC, it says nothing about what kind of discipleship anyone is asked to live. It says ” We believe God loves you, therefore we too shall show you love”.

    Once again homophobia gets coached in intelligent terms and gets a pass.. because the crying baby and the Arab gentleman was ok.. it is only the queers he takes exception too.

  2. I won’t argue too much with you — both writers at Radical Congruency come at things in ways that irritate or confuse me from time to time — but I’ve read them long enough to know they address matters pertaining to homosexuality in a way that’s a hundred times deeper than your usual Evangelical blog, and that’s the setting they’re working with.

    I take him at face value when he says the Ejector Seat ad is a misleading open-ended invitation. I was going to add in my post that UUs claim the same and then you get to a church and are essentially handed a list of fine-print exceptions but I’ve been in a snit with matters UU lately and it has been getting me down. In fine, I’d go as far as saying TV ads are a lousy vehicle for church growth exactly because it is too easy to send the wrong message. Contrast the very vague United Methodist ads and the Mormon set of yore. Which I think is Justin’s basic point. At best, they offer a bit of positive name recognition, but but behind it there has to be a church-wide, church-based intake campaign with has the message set out clearly, and that needs to be more than “the doors are open.” Some UCC churches around here seem to buy in; others don’t. (The one Hubby and I will be attending apparently doesn’t.) And the UCC ad people aren’t innocents; as a gay man, I feel a touched used if, in fact, the ad is intented to cause controversy.

  3. TheCSO and I just watched the ad.

    The message is VERY clearly “we accept people that other churches don’t” They don’t eject a tax evader or a philanderer. The eject a lady with a crying baby, a gay couple and an arab guy.

    That said, we’re totally in favor of ejecting the lady with the crying baby.

    who tends to think that God DOESN’T reject people. God rejects sins.

  4. Jamie, you make a good point. I did make an unfair leap because of my particular feelings on this matter. The ad is probably not conveying as big a misconception as I took it to.

    Scott, I think you’ve grasped the problem better than I did in my post – advertising is a poor medium for sending accurate messages about our faith. There are deep issues that need to be considered, and simplifying them enough for a 24-second TV spot. Just for starters:
    -What is the proper use of a worship service – for welcoming in non-adherents, or for conducting necessarily “insider” activities that won’t make sense or be appropriate for outsiders? Or somwhere in between?
    -What are the implications of saying that no one is an outsider?
    -Is sitting in pews without fear of r/ejection the best people can hope for when visiting a church?
    -Should it even be possible to visit churches (without some sort of a priori commitment) in the first place? Does scripture ever anticipate (or appear to allow for) this type of ecclesiology or outreach model? The Eastern Orthodox have an interesting approach in this regard.

    I know the gay couple gets the most attention, but I think this would be an equally questionable ad (though less controversial) without them. If it had said “We take discipleship seriously, and we welcome gay Christians,” that would send an entirely different message. My critique is more about ecclesiology and discipleship in general.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Jamie, feel free to chime in at my site if you’d like.

  5. I think the question the UCC is asking is, What field are we called to harvest? They see an evangelism opportunity among people who have come to see the church itself as a stumbling block. You could dismiss these people as “secular” or even “liberal” (although I don’t think the outreach campaign is really as partisan as the online hubbub about it), but the UCC is trying to find ways to communicate the gospel to a group of people who, frankly, cannot be reached by many kinds of conventional evangelism. Perhaps that’s the denomination’s mission in our time: to be the bringer of good news to the skeptics and the church-wounded. And yes, I hope they do take discipleship seriously.

  6. I don’t have much to add to this conversation that’s not already been said, but wanted to say that I’m enjoying the dialogue and I’m curious to hear about the church visit. I think Philocrites has it right on! The invitation in the ad is only a first step.

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