I recently binged on some vintage TV shows. I was re-introduced to favorite characters of my youth like LaVerne DeFazio, Joe Friday, and Ernest T. Bass. I remember those personalities fairly well, but I was surprised at how I needed no re-introduction to the consumer ad icons of yesteryear like Tony the Tiger, Speedy Alka-Seltzer, Charlie Tuna, and Cap’n Crunch.
Just viewing that assembly of icons brought an instantaneous recollection of less-than-valuable information. Catching only a glimpse of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile launched me word for word into the company’s enduring jingle. The late Marvin Gaye must be flattered that three well-dressed raisins instantly bring his “Heard It Through the Grapevine” song to mind. And, there is a part of me that still feels sorry for the Trix Rabbit, who is repeatedly told, despite all his pleas, he cannot eat his own cereal.
Advertising companies, no doubt, find many of these memorable characters textbook examples of marketing bonanzas. They waltz into our worlds, innocently capturing brain space, and forever installing the invaluable propensity for product recognition. One expert reasoned that advertising can be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it!
The influence of subconscious association is powerful, for what comes automatically, comes without much thought. What we recognize, or think we recognize, seems to give our minds permission to act on cruise control. Familiarity can, too often, breed carelessness.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes with instruction for Christians to present themselves to God as an act of worship. Within his description of what this means, Paul singles out the mind: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…" (Romans 12:2). One’s religion can easily operate on autopilot. The siege of familiarity can present a successful barricade between the allied forces of heart, mind, eyes, and action.
This is true, whether one is a dedicated follower of Jesus or not. Like water to a fish, we can see without really seeing. Where we have stopped seeing Christ because too many Christians have let us down, how do we look again? When we come to the same parable or hear again David's 23rd Psalm and our minds respond with a dull sense of fluency, how do we see it once more? How do we prevent our perspective of Christ from becoming susceptible to unhealthy familiarity?
Without being a curmudgeon, it’s worth considering. Paul summons all to attention, urging us to discover that giving God a renewed mind of any sort is an act of worship. Faith is not a mechanical following after his Son or a blind adherence to ethics.
May we live with mind and spirit renewed. When we see “ordinary” acts of kindness, observe beautiful natural scenes, or read "I am the bread of life, he who follows me shall never go hungry," may we seek to engage that moment, seeing His mercy but also having our eyes fully opened by it.
~ Pastor Mullinax