In the last month or so, I have noticed an interesting development in television advertising. I do not know whether this is a developing trend, but it made me take notice. Advertisers are using well known sacred songs to promote their products. The first one I noticed was the ABC, which uses the words of the old and well known song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Originally, that song was written about the sovereignty of God, who in his providence upholds all things by his hands, including you and me and the little bitty baby. The only thing is that the advertisers have changed the words subtly to “You’ve got the whole world in your hands.” It is no longer God, but you, who have the world in your hands by watching ABC TV.
The second instance is a new bank called ME Bank. ME actually stands for “Members’ Equity” and the bank is based in Melbourne. To promote the bank, they have used a group of school children to sing “Me, me, me, me….” To the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. We know of course that Hallelujah means Praise the LORD. So instead of singing praise to the Lord, the chorus is being used to sing about ME and money. I am sure Handel would be turning in his grave.
The third recent instance is a Millers clothing TV ad. Millers is a women’s clothing store, and with screen shots of women and text implying they are amazing, the song that is sung by a female vocalist is John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace.” In their promotional material, Millers say “Amazing you. Again, the focus is removed from our amazing and gracious God and placed on people.
As I reflected on this new trend, I thought at first that it was neat. Obviously advertisers must be realizing that this sacred Christian music has value and attraction. I am sure that modern advertisers are not the first to use sacred music for secular purposes. In fact, the reverse is also true, and the church has used secular music for psalms and hymns. It is believed by some that even some of the Genevan Psalms used melodies from the secular world.
However, the more I thought about it, it appears to me that this is yet another attack upon our faith, innocent though it may seem at first. Why? Well, the more that people hear these songs and the visual images that accompany them, the more ingrained they will become in their thinking, memories and recognition. This may affect committed Christians less or more slowly than others, but if these ads run for any length of time, it won’t be long before it will be hard to hear the original without at the same thinking about the ABC, a bank, or women’s clothing.
And for those who have no Christian commitment or background, the possibility of their hearts being touched by good Christian music and words minimizes. Amazing Grace will no longer trigger any images of being lost and found, blind and now seeing, and singing about God’s amazing grace after a thousand years.
So where does that leave us Christians? I suppose we could write and complain, saying we are offended that our Christian music is being hijacked and used for commercial purposes. We could tell the advertisers we are offended by what they are doing. They probably won’t take any notice, and in truth, we are probably far more offended by other issues where our Christian faith and values have been attacked and destroyed by a humanistic society.
An alternative could be that we ourselves become better living advertisements for our faith and values. Let’s sing the songs as they were meant to be sung, and not just in church or at home but in the public places that we go. We could let the songs of faith accompany our actions of faith, and so let our light shine more brightly in an ever darkening world.
Today’s guest post is written by Mr Kevin Rietveld.