Headlines from First Thoughts

Friday, December 08, 2006

Saturday, December 9- Advent Publicity

How do you spread the word about Advent? You could always try the strategy used by the promoters of the new "Rocky" movie. Yes, as in Sylvester Stallone, Rocky XXVIII. This guy is old enough to be Parker's grandfather, and he's still fighting. Now his producers are "Christianizing" the character. Read this email that I received a few weeks ago. You'll think it's a joke at first, but I've actually received two "invitations."

Dear Leader,
Sylvester Stallone (as in, "Rocky") cordially invites you, as a leader in the faith and family community, to JOIN HIM ON THE PHONE LIVE this Friday at 12:30 - 12:50 pm Pacific Time.
Sly would like to take some time to talk to you about the faith and values that run through the Rocky films, and share with you about his upcoming movie, Rocky Balboa, the final chapter in the Rocky story (yes, Stallone himself gets back in the ring!).
As space on this call is limited, please CLICK HERE TO RSVP immediately to reserve your spot.
In interviews with various faith-based publications, Sly recently shared some of his thoughts about the Rocky character and faith:
"In Rocky, if he's just a fighter, then it's just a boxing story, and I told the producers in the beginning, 'It's not a boxing story; it's a spiritual journey. It really is about a man that has been chosen to accomplish a role, to be an example for other people.' " Interview with New Man Magazine
"If you don't have a great relationship with God, you can go off the deep end. The Christian foundation of life is really the perfect ideal which one should base every decision they make on, because it comes from a sense of kindness, a sense of giving, a sense of fairness, and it avoids everything which I'm exposed to every day in my particular industry which is greed, and avarice and jealousy and bitterness . . ." Interview with Catholic Digest
We recently screened Rocky Balboa for some key leaders, who had a chance to meet with Sly after the screening. Here's what they had to say:
"Life is hard, and faith can help us to face some of those challenges and issues in our past and you see Rocky do that throughout the movies but particularly it comes to kind of a peak in this movie and it was exciting to see." Jud Wilhite Senior Pastor, Central Christian Church Las Vegas, Nevada
"I thought it was a tremendous film. I thought it was powerful. It was not an overtly Christian film, but it was a film filled with Christian themes of faith and hope and second chances and redemption, and I would say that for us as Christians that it gives us real fodder for conversations with people to talk about those themes." Mark Mittelberg Writer, speaker and Church Consultant
"I guess if there's one theme that stood out for me was the whole idea of self esteem. And how important that is to be formed in the family, first of all, and then, if it gets lost along the way, that it can be regained. And that's a good message for people to know, and to hear that there's always hope." Sister Rose Pacatte Daughters of St. Paul
We at Motive Entertainment (we managed the grass roots campaigns for The Passion and Narnia, among others) have created a variety of FREE faith-based Rocky resources for teaching and preaching (visit www.RockyResources.com).
Though this is not a religious film, we believe there are many themes ("The Heart of a Champion," "Fighting the Good Fight," "Recovery After a Fall," etc.) that relate to faith and values. But don't take our word for it - listen to Sly himself explain how he has woven these themes into his movies.

Needless to say, I didn't join "the conference call." Consider me another cynic if you wish, but I just don't think "Rocky" fits the genre of the "Nativity Story," the "Passion of the Christ," or even the "Chronicles of Narnia." I'm beginning to grow weary of the "Christian" marketing schtick anyway. Hopefully my church is more than just another "untapped consumer waiting to spend money."

It's no wonder God chose to send angels to the hillsides instead of the temple. If God had a "marketing plan," it certainly did not follow a Hollywood script. The only ones open enough to listen were not looking for a superstar. They were looking to the stars, gazing into the night sky, or obeying God daily. When they heard the news, they bowed in reverence and spread the word to friends and enemies.

So this season, if you want a glimpse of the kingdom of God, watch for events less commercialized, like the cries of a baby or the stars in the skies. You'll be better prepared for heaven's publicity plan.

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