"Lust" is now taboo during the Super Bowl

The past few months have been strange at the intersection of faith and advertising, beginning with the big three networks' rejection of the United Church of Christ's TV spots and continuing with Rolling Stone's temporary rejection of an ad promoting a new gender-inclusive version of the Bible. Now Ford Motor Company has withdrawn an ad it had bought during the Super Bowl, after protests by members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Stuart Elliott of The New York Times explains:

The withdrawn commercial, by the Dearborn office of Young & Rubicam, part of the Young & Rubicam Brands division of the WPP Group, was intended to introduce the Mark LT, a successor to the failed Lincoln Blackwood pickup. In the spot, an actor dressed as a clergyman finds a key to a Mark LT in the collection plate after services, then covetously appraises it in the parking lot -- only to learn from a congregant that it was a prank by his mischievous daughter, rather than a donation.

The spot ends with the clergyman posting "Lust" as the theme of his next sermon.

"Our members find it offensive," David Clohessy, national director of the advocacy organization complaining about the commercial, said before the withdrawal became known. His organization is called Snap, for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Mr. Clohessy, who commented after watching a version of the commercial on a Web site about Super Bowl advertising, superbowl-ads.com, complained that the actor was dressed as a Catholic or Episcopalian priest and described the child, an actor about 6 years old, as looking "shy and compliant."

After learning that Ford Motor had withdrawn the commercial, Mr. Clohessy said the decision would "spare a lot of people a lot of pain."

"We certainly understand that people can interpret the ad in different ways and we never alleged maliciousness," Mr. Clohessy said. "But anything that avoids rubbing salt into a deep wound is good."

Ford's decision has led to outraged posts on the superbowl-ads.com message boards (sample topic: Pride and Christian idiots).

As the Chicago Tribune notes, one prominent Catholic doubts the ad would have rubbed salt into wounds:

Other groups who joined SNAP in their displeasure were the Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful and StopFamilyViolence.org. Feminist groups were expected to join the protest Thursday.

But at least one religious organization said it was baffled by the idea that the ad was connected to the abuse scandal.

"To say that it trivializes and exploits the sex scandal is absurd," said William Donahue of the Catholic League. "In short, it does no one any good to read into this silly ad malicious intent on the part of Ford/Lincoln."

The San Francisco Chronicle provides this link to the ad, which seems to have disappeared. (Truckblog offers this link, which it says will work if you allow popup windows. No success for me, but maybe it's a Mac-hostile site.)

A few observations:

• Would there be any irony in an Episcopal priests -- the vast majority of whom are not bound by vows of celibacy -- feeling lust for a vehicle? The implausibility here is that any theologically correct Episcopal priest would yearn for an ostentatious and gas-guzzling Lincoln Mark LT pickup. A sporty Toyota Prius would be another matter.

• The ad shows a pastor changing a sign at an unspecified "Community Church," which meets in a white elephant of a building suggesting the worst of post-Vatican II architecture. But as we've noted in this space before, ugly church architecture is no respecter of denominations. Might any alert GetReligion reader help us figure out which church rented out its property for the ad?

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