Welcome to the Church of Don Draper

By Joel Hess

Mad Men did many things well, but its brilliant dialogue lifted it from T.V. drama to a Shakespearean masterpiece. I don’t know of a show with so many great quotes, outside of Seinfeld. Yet most importantly the scripts magnified the underlying cancer that produces the rotten sores and symptoms we see in society today! Therefore, what more fitting setting for such a show than an advertising firm!

The Ayn Randian anti-hero, Don Draper, reveals the goal of his business, advertisement, in season one by saying, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”

For all you republicans who have put all your eggs in the free market, it is capitalism that is proving to be America’s best friend and worst enemy! It is the tools of capitalism that promote all those social issues social conservatives find bothersome. Capitalism has unwittingly accomplished what Communist propagandists could only dream of – successfully manipulating the worldview of its comrades. I am not exaggerating.

We have actually come to believe our own commercials, the product of Ad Men like Don Draper! We have the power to create images of happiness that look so real that we are convinced they are! Whether it is the sitcom image of the middle class family or the “best part of waking up…”, whether it is the messed up family with two dads and a dog for a cousin, we can make it all look beautiful on T.V. We can make it all look cozy, comfortable, and confirming with camera angles and actors.

“What you call love was invented by guys like me trying to sell nylons.” – Don Draper.

It is beautifully ironic that Draper pursued a career in advertising. He is an advertisement! He has a hidden, ugly, even grotesque past. He is the son of a prostitute, lived in a brothel, was beaten by his dad, saw his dad die by a horse, accidentally killed a man while serving in Korea, and most significantly his name isn’t really Don Draper! He stole the identity of the fellow whom he killed! He is a fraud just like his advertising.

Mostly everyone on T.V. is pushing the worst of things upon society. They are frauds leaving behind busted lives like Don’s kids. We all are frauds, though, aren’t we? We are pretending to be something we are not. Draper’s attributes illicit compassion from the viewer even while he cheats on his wives. He is broken. He is searching for something real even though he professes that there is nothing real. “The universe is indifferent,” he exclaims.

The world is full of Don Drapers. They are broken. They live a lie, even promote a lie. They claim to be happy and that they only want others to be happy. But they are hollow inside like a chocolate Easter bunny. They are as dangerous as they are fragile.

Sadly, sometimes the Church appears to agree with Don Draper’s advertising philosophy when it comes to selling Jesus. It’s all based on happiness. Just browse around Church websites. You will often only witness pictures of people smiling, laughing, sharing coffee, drinking a Coke. You will often only hear talk about growing, healing, transforming. So often we as a Church are caught up in creating an image that hopefully will convince prospective members that they will be “happy” and “ok” here.

Unfortunately the Ad Men will always sell happiness better than the church. So if people are looking for happiness, they will soon find it a lot cheaper and easier without having to get up early on Sunday. Just buy Coke, drive and Volkswagen, and watch Modern Family. They will smile and feel good for a moment or two.

Jesus did not come to make us happy here (oh that’s coming for sure). He came to give us LIFE! Real life, not the kind you see on TV. He came to take a life like Don Draper’s and not just cover it up with cheap mascara, a beach background, and a turn of phrase; but he came to kill it, drown it and make it alive again, expose it, forgive it, and resurrect it!

Once again my fellow pastors, wannabe Ad Men, Mad Men, I plead with you, ironically along with those pot smoking hippies always confronting Don, “Stop selling happiness!” Stop painting pictures of white houses, couples holding hands and kids going to college. Start drowning frauds and raising up newborn babes. Start breaking glass houses and raising the dead. Start preaching Christ crucified, bloodied, mangled, broken and buried. Start proclaiming Christ resurrected with an earthquake and women running scared! It isn’t an advertisement. It is reality.