Listed below are the 10 most-viewed MethodistThinker posts over the past 12 months (three posts in this year’s Top 10 list were first posted in 2009 — the publication date for each post is shown in parentheses):
For the second year in a row, the most-listened-to MethodistThinker Podcast during the past 12 months was a May 2009 program featuring a 1960 sermon by the late Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones (the companion post for that podcast is #10 in the list above).
The hyper-commercialization of the Christmas season is nothing new. Fifty-two years ago satirist Stan Freberg produced “Green Chri$tma$,” a memorable indictment of the profit-above-all mindset that seeks to transform the celebration of the Incarnation into an endorsement of everything from soft drinks to soap.
Stan Freberg in the late 1950s
“All my life I had been disturbed by advertising’s increasingly blatant intrusion into Christmas,” Freberg recounted in his his 1998 book, It Only Hurts When I Laugh (Crown Publishing).
[H]aving been raised as a Christian, in a minister’s home, was mostly responsible for my feelings about it, but once I began working as a professional advertising person around people in agencies and clients, I suddenly realized that the overcommercialization simply didn’t have to be….
If a company wanted to tie some product into Christmas that just didn’t fit or that was grossly out of place, it was the job of its advertising agency to talk them out of it. If the agency was the one who had dreamed up ways of lashing some extraneous product into the holiday… it’s the client’s job to talk the agency out of it. Client and agency should save each other from themselves.
Why? Because it is the ethical thing to do.
“Green Chri$tma$” was greeted with controversy even before its release, Freberg recalled in his book.
[After we made the recording,] I was in New York when a call came in from a man named Lloyd Dunn. He was the new president of Capitol…. He…did not share my sense of moral outrage that Christmas had deteriorated into a sell-a-thon. He was calling now to tell me that on the advice of legal and many other people at Capitol he was pulling “Green Chri$tma$” off release…
“This is a very offensive recording[," he said].
“Who is it offensive to?” I asked.
“Everybody in the world of business!” he said. “You’ll offend everybody in advertising!”
“Not everybody,” I said. “Just the ones who should be offended.”
When Stan Freberg threatened to leave Capitol over the company’s refusal to release “Green Chri$tma$,” Dunn relented, but he demanded that Freberg “take out any mention of whose birthday we’re celebrating,” according to the account in It Only Hurts When I Laugh. Freberg refused.
Eventually, “Green Chri$tma$” was released as originally produced, but with no publicity from Capitol.
Nonetheless, the recording gained attention — including plenty of negative attention from advertisers and those businesses (i.e., newspapers and broadcasting stations) supported by advertising.
A Christmas Day (1958) editorial in the Los Angeles Times accused Freberg of attacking the spirit of giving. In a rejoinder, published in the paper three weeks later, Freberg wrote that Times had misidentified the object of his satire.
["Green Chri$tma$"] is an attack on one thing and one thing only: advertisers who…decide to take a crack at tying their extraneous products into Christmas with Alka-Seltzer, soap, hair tonic and whiskey ads (to name a few), implying that it is indeed the Christian thing to be alkalized, clean, dandruff-free and loaded for Christmas.
Somehow this is a little sickening and a far cry from the gift giving that took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
In a interview decades later, Freberg noted that despite a few dated elements, the satirical point of “Green Chri$tma$” remained remarkably sharp. “I’m amazed that it holds up all these years,” he said.
Stan Freberg donated the proceeds from “Green Chri$tma$” to the Hemophilia Foundation.
To listen to “Green Chri$tma$” (4:30), use the audio player below. (This version, with some of the more-dated elements removed, is about two minutes shorter than the original production. The full version is available for purchase — as an mp3 download — here.)
Stan Freberg grew up in Pasadena, Calif., the son of a Baptist minister. He began providing voices for cartoons while still a teenager, then broke into network radio. After making series of popular satirical recordings in the 1950s, he concentrated his career on advertising and became known (in the words of Advertising Age magazine) as “the father of the funny commercial.”
In 1995, Stan Freberg was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Commercials for God | TIME (July 12, 1963) (NOTE: In 1963, Stan Freberg wrote and produced a series of commercials for the United Presbyterian Church, a denomination that was later part of the merger that formed the Presbyterian Church (USA) — tagline for the spots: “The blessings you lose may be your own.” In the 1970s, he wrote and produced several audio essays for the Southern Baptist Convention.)
Originally written as an opening prayer for an Advent season worship service:
Father God, since childhood Christmas has evoked in us all manner of feelings: joy, excitement, anticipation.
But as our understanding of Christmas has grown, what happened at that first Christmas now causes us to stand amazed — that you, the sovereign Lord of all the universe would come in search of us, to relieve us of our burden of sin, to rescue us from hopelessness, and to offer us entrance into your presence and a role to play in the unfolding of your purposes.
Father, thank you that Christmas tells us just how much you have set your affection on us.
May we never take lightly what you have done on our behalf through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Him who became as we are that we might become as He is.
We offer our thanks to you in the name of Jesus the Christ, the visible expression of the invisible God.
The final MethodistThinker Podcast of 2010 features an address by the foremost American evangelist of the 20th century, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, speaking at the 1980 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism.
Born in North Carolina in 1918, William Franklin Graham gave his life to Jesus Christ at a evangelistic service in Charlotte in 1934.
The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham
Five years later, he was ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention. After graduating from Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1943, he served as a pastor and radio preacher.
In 1945, Graham became vice president of Youth For Christ, and in 1947 he was named president of Northwestern College in Minneapolis (now located in St. Paul).
In 1956, Graham helped found Christianity Today magazine, “partly to provide a voice for evangelicals in the mainline who did not find themselves represented in the Christian Century,” according to Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School.
Throughout the 1950s, Billy Graham held evangelistic campaigns in many major U.S. cities, including a New York City crusade that ran for 16 weeks. He also held rallies in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe.
Graham continued to travel and preach regularly for five decades, until finally slowed by age and Parkinson’s Disease. His final crusade, at age 86, was in 2005 in New York City.
Billy Graham’s many best-selling books include America’s Hour of Decision, Peace with God and Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham.
The message on this podcast, edited for length, was recorded in January 1980 at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, held that year on the campus of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.
Dr. Graham’s message, “Confusion About Evangelism,” discusses the following:
Confusion over what evangelism means;
Confusion over the motive for evangelism;
Confusion over message of evangelism;
Confusion concerning strategy of the enemy in opposing evangelism;
Confusion over methods of evangelism.
To listen, use the audio player below (26 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 file (12.3MB).
For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.