This past spring after a long and successful run, the television series “Mad Men” came to a fitting end. As the series title indicates, the backdrop of the show was the advertising industry’s evolution through the early years of television, especially in the 1960s.
I began watching Mad Men because of the authentic 60’s feel (I’m the same age as some of the children in the show). But I got hooked watching the portrayal of the creative process around advertising. Real-life products—and sometimes actual ad campaigns—from my childhood showed up each week. Glo-Coat, Alka-Selzer, Clearasil, and Heinz Ketchup (with Lucky Strike cigarettes lingering in the background of the early seasons) all made appearances on the show. Mad Men revealed how effective advertising is often about making us restless—fostering a desire for something elusive—then associating the product with that sense of longing and its fulfillment. The Rolling Stones most successful song is actually a parody of this kind of advertising: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The technology of modern advertising is far more sophisticated than it was 50 years ago, but the basic strategy has changed little. Creating restlessness is at the core of the business. Sometimes they use nostalgia, sometimes fear, but always they seek to move us off-center. The enemy of the advertiser is contentment.
But what we have created is a culture of discontent. We have closets full of clothes but complain that we have nothing to wear. We run out of storage space for all our stuff so we go out and rent more storage for “treasured possessions” which are in boxes that never see the light of day. We protect our homes with security systems that would make Fort Knox jealous and still fear for our safety. We have 200 channels on our television and complain that there’s nothing worth watching (well, that last one may be true!). We have become short-sighted, plagued with short attention spans and even shorter tempers. But there is a way out.
The Bible speaks of contentment as the fruit of a godly life. And it is within reach. The Apostle Paul noted in Philippians: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
During the month of October, we will spend the four Sundays exploring the meaning contentment in our lives. We will look at the sources of discontentment and their remedy in Christ. We will also look at positive ways we can cultivate contentment and inoculate ourselves from the constant barrage of messages that seek to encourage restlessness. We invite you to join us on this journey that we may rediscover the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.