On Tuesday night, my Life Group and I had a chocolate fondue. Yeah, sure, we were good and dipped fruit into it at first, but then someone came along with a bag of marshmallows. Suddenly fruit lost its appeal – marshmallows just go so well with chocolate, don’t they?
After the Bible study, as we lowered our heads for prayer, my eyes fell upon the background text behind the fluffy, pink and white image on the front of the (now empty) marshmallow packet. The main tag-line was ‘seductively soft’, the adverbs behind it were ‘enticingly, devilishly, wickedly, temptingly, sinfully, divinely…’
Hang on a minute! Divinely? As a synonym for ‘sinfully’?
Now perhaps you’ll say I’m reading too much into this. It’s just a bag of sweets, after all. But what a revealing insight into our culture, that packaging designers wouldn’t give a second thought to listing those words together.
Sure, writers use oxymoron for literary effect, but I’d be surprised if that’s what’s going on here. Someone has just brainstormed all the words they can think of which mean roughly the same, and hasn’t noticed that all but one describe something which is bad/naughty but appealing.
Something divine – that is, something Godly, pure and holy – is not something which is attractive but deadly.
Yes, it was just a throw-away thought. Barely even that, just a list of words, no sinister intent attached. Yet it’s the throw away, un-thought-through lines which often reveal the most about us. The things we say when we’re not really thinking reflect the thoughts, feelings and values hidden deep in our subconscious, and shaping us more than we realise.
If we want to understand and speak relevantly to our culture, it is important that we recognise these tiny but significant give-aways into its core beliefs and assumptions. If people can’t tell the difference between the words ‘divine’ and ‘wicked’, how can we expect them to be able to judge in real-life situations which of the possible courses of action is right and which is wrong?
How do we rescue the concept of divinity from its apparent associations with sinfulness? I don’t know, but I’m keeping the marshmallow packet as a reminder to keep trying.