December 22, 2005

The Immaculate Deception

1548 page31 capong ago I found myself with a sleepless, boring night in an Arizona motel room. The shabby room furnished a television rendering only three discernible stations: a Brady Bunch rerun and a Mexican soap opera, leaving only the last channel open to view. These circumstances assisted in setting the perfect trap for my indoctrination into the world of infomercials.

As you know, an infomercial is a cleverly disguised commercial flavored with supposedly vital information. Believe it or not, they can also be pretty entertaining. You have to be careful, though, because before you know it, you find yourself looking for pen and paper to jot down the 800 number you so desperately need to buy that product you can?t live without.

An infomercial must be skillfully prepared to fit into a 20- to 30-minute segment in order to be effective. Generally the product is not introduced until the infomercial is well into the segment. By this format, one can be tricked into thinking they?re watching an informative talk show.

1548 page31Examples of these products vary from weight-loss gimmicks, real estate investments, sandwich makers, kitchen knives, and car products to closet organizers and juicers--all of which usually end up in your next year?s garage sale. The products are presented as being unattainable anywhere but through their constantly flashing 800 number. An ominous clock appearing in the corner of the screen screams out the final minutes the viewer has left to purchase this ?one-time only? offer. The urgency is irresistible. Buy now!

The producers also use canned effects to stir an emotional response to the testimonies. There are the weight-loss product presentations of ?before? and ?after.? The ?befores? are portrayed as tearfully pathetic, obese people who are usually purposely ungroomed, poorly dressed, and poorly photographed. These are then contrasted with the jubilant, slim ?afters,? who with their new bodies have acquired a taste for either immodest attire or an impeccable appearance. Or a spokesperson sets the hood of a Cadillac on fire while his/her cospokesperson demonstrates sheer panic and revulsion at potentially ruining a beautiful car. All is set right soon, however, and the audience is moved to applaud the restoration of the burned area by just one swipe of a miracle product.

The devil is good at infomercials. He cleverly mixes truth with lies, and the mixtures are deadly. He uses this mixture mostly on us who are religiously educated and believe that we already know ?the truth.? We let our guard down, become lazy, and don?t search the Scriptures with a humble, unprejudiced, and teachable attitude aided by the Holy Spirit.

He also uses the ?urgency? factor. Now, it is true that urgency is important in the times in which we live. But how many times have we heard the phrase ?Get ready! The end is near!? Fear jolts through our systems, and we recommit and promise to be better, work harder, and get rid of our sins. That sounds right, but there is a major problem. The devil?s infomercials are working. We?re reaching for our Visa Cards. We forget that ?when there?s our will, there?s no way!? We can?t cleanse ourselves. We can?t ready ourselves. We can?t pick ourselves up out of the gutter. We can do what Jesus told us to do in Revelation 3:18, ?I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see? (NIV). This sounds like an antidote to Satan?s infomercials. Put on the robe of Christ?s righteousness. Put on His eyesalve before you grab that Visa card and bite the bait. This antidote is free for the asking. All it costs is to give up on yourself. Give up on your will. Give up on your works. Open your life to Jesus Christ so He can live in you, and you in Him.

Satan was defeated at the cross. He?s clever, and wants to take you down with him to his final demise. Don?t buy into his infomercials. His goods aren?t even fit for next year?s garage sale.

Donna Tucker is church secretary for the Adventist church in Reno, Nevada, and teaches art for the Reno Veterans Administration/VSA Program.