CBS and NBC have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ on grounds that it is “too controversial.” The message of the advertisement is one that I hope we would embrace, but I am not so sanguine about that.
Here is a description of the advertisement:
The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound “bouncers” standing guard outside a fabled, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ’s commitment to Jesus’ extravagant welcome: “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
To see the ad, go here. Among the people turned away are a gay couple, members of various minority groups, and a man in a wheelchair. In my view, it is a powerful indictment of religious bigotry. According to the United Church of Christ, however, executives at CBS were not moved:
“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations,” reads an explanation from CBS, “and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”
In my experience, Mormons send a message of exclusion to many people. To some extent, this is inevitable, as our temples are accessible only to recommend holders. They are necessarily exclusive. Our chapels, on the other hand, should be more welcoming. Yes, we have a sign that reads, “Visitors Welcome,” but do we mean it?
- If an African-American decided to attend Church in my ward, she would feel very out of place. Yes, many of us would say nice things and do our best to show our genuine enthusiasm toward her, but she would be the only African-American in the building.
- If a gay couple showed up at sacrament meeting, I suspect the reception would be chilly, if not explicitly hostile.
- One of the most common examples of exclusion in my experience is our reaction to those who appear to be indigent. For all of our talk about helping the poor, we don’t seem to like them very much.
To be honest, I have some work to do here, but it is work worth doing.