Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends

You’ve probably seen this commercial on television several times by now. The opening scene shows a little roadside diner out in the middle of nowhere. A Coca-Cola truck is already parked there as the Pepsi truck pulls to a stop. Inside the diner we see a slightly chunky Coca-Cola guy already sitting at the counter with his half-eaten lunch and a Coke Zero as the slimmer Pepsi guy takes a seat at the counter a couple of seats away. Pepsi guy orders his meal (the special and a Pepsi Max) as he sits down and gives a friendly smile to Coca-Cola guy, who responds with a suspicious nod, chewing and swallowing his most recent bite.

As the music moves from the background to the foreground we recognize it as “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by the ’70’s rock-funk-jazz fusion band WAR. Coca-Cola guy, eyes front makes the first move to break the tension. “Good song,” he says. Pepsi guy, eyes still front agrees: “Great song.” As they make eye contact again … friendlier this time, Pepsi guy gets up, moves toward Coca-Cola guy with a hearty, good-to-know-you handshake, and takes the seat right next to him. A brief conversation about Pepsi Max leads to Coca-Cola guy trying Pepsi Max. As he follows his first sip with a deep draught, the cook behind the counter comments to the waitress, “I think he likes it.”

The ice is completely broken now and everybody is all smiles until Pepsi guy pulls out his smart phone and takes a video of Coca-Cola guy drinking the Pepsi Max. “What are you doing?” Coca-Cola guy asks. “YouTube,” he says, showing him the video he has just uploaded from his phone. It takes only a moment for Coca-Cola guy to realize what has just happened, and his countenance changes. In the final scene we see the Pepsi guy being thrown through the front window from the inside.

What in the world does that silly commercial have to do with anything? It’s a good analogy for how we tend to respond to our preferences for different styles of worship [music]. Pepsi Max and Coke Zero are on the market for the same reason, and if you’re really thirsty for a diet soft drink, either will probably fill the bill adequately. They would for me.

Pepsi and Coke are competing for market share, but our two worship services are not. Worship is not about market share, and we don’t compare our two services. Nor do we compare ourselves with other churches in our community. Our competition is not other churches, but anything people would do on Sunday morning OTHER than worship.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.

Further thoughts addendum:
As I have thought through the concept further after I wrote the above (9/7/10), it has become clearer to me that there is culpability on both sides of the issue. The more recent commercial begins with the tension and moves through an attempted resolution. While the Coca-cola guy threw the Pepsi guy out the window ... the Pepsi guy antagonized the Coca-cola guy by posting an embarrassing video on youTube. You'd better believe he knew what he was doing.

I'm also wondering if some of my writings on the Worship Wars actually perpetuate some of the animosity that style fundamentalists (of any stripe, whether "traditional," "contemporary," "blended," or any other label we might attach) tend to have toward one another. My heart's desire is that we let go of our prejudices and simply seek to encounter God. I have been fussed at by both (and more) "sides" of the issue for doing things that don't fit within sets of parameters of expectations that are far too narrowly defined to be reasonable. And most of my colleagues have as well. Maybe if we stop talking about unreasonably rigid opinions about worship and concentrate more on pointing our people toward Christ (in any and every "style") the issue will fade more into the background. I'm no so naive as to think it will go away completely. There is too much evidence that tension over worship style has been going on at least for the past 400 years for me to think that it's not always going to be a part of the landscape. One may easily interpret the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well to include questions of worship style.

Since writing the above I have also seen the original commercial upon which this one was based. In the original, it's a snowy night outside the diner and the two guys commiserate about having to work Christmas eve and be away from family. In a gesture of good will (peace on earth???) the Coca-cola guy and the Pepsi guy trade cans. The Pepsi guy wants his back, the Coca-cola guy refuses and it is implied that it is he who gets thrown through the window by the Pepsi guy.

Art imitates life imitates art: There is also a news story from a few years ago about delivery drivers for Coca-cola and Pepsi getting into a very public fight outside a Wal-Mart in White Township, PA.

OK ... so that really should be enough to think about for now.

The peace of Christ to all.


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