Enjoy the Ride

To the uninitiated, it looks like the beginning of a new episode of "The Twilight Zone." A car zooms past a field of flowers, accompanied by the eerie sound of bells and chimes. Suddenly the car slows. In its side-view mirror we see the reflection of a mysterious figure standing in the road. It’s an Asian man, wearing a baseball cap and rose-colored glasses. He’s holding a terrier and laughing softly. And then a message flashes across the screen: "Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride." This is a commercial for Nissan cars, and it illustrates the growing use of Eastern mysticism to sell products. Nissan’s mysterious figure was named "Mr. K" by the company’s advertising firm, TBWA Chiat Day. According to Adweek magazine, Mr. K is "a magical Japanese elder who [represents] Nissan’s long heritage in the U.S." Mr. K pops up unexpectedly in Nissan’s television spots in conscious imitation of the way Rod Sterling popped up in "Twilight Zone" episodes. In American Demographic magazine, Jennifer Harrison writes that "the common thread of the campaign is the Zen-like wisdom provided by the aging Asian hero and the ethereal, otherworldly feeling evoked by symphonic bells, harmonies, and Eastern mysticism." But viewers may well wonder where the wisdom is. The slogan "Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride" is about as spiritually robust as a fortune cookie. But for many Americans, that’s precisely the appeal of Eastern religions. There’s an appearance of spirituality—but it’s a spirituality that doesn’t demand anything. Boston Globe religion writer Diego Ribadeneira explains this phenomenon in a recent article about the popularity of Buddhism. "Americans find comfort," he writes, "in a faith that… lacks the kind of dogma found in Western faiths. To a large degree," Ribadeneira adds, "Buddhism has flourished because of its malleability. One can be a Buddhist in tandem with another religion." In other words, when it comes to religion, Americans want to choose the elements they like—and reject the rest: a salad-bar religiousity. Advertisers understand this, and that’s why more and more of them are using appealing elements of Eastern mysticism in their ads. Nissan’s ad makers say their mystical "Mr. K" ads were intended to express one major theme¾ enjoyment. But scripture rejects this over-emphasis on the seeking of personal pleasure. The Bible says we are immortal creatures, created with an eternal purpose far greater than just grabbing whatever pleasure this life has to offer. It teaches that on life’s journey, God has a specific destination in mind for us. And how we get there is what the journey is all about. Christians have to be on the lookout for the philosophical messages that ads contain. We must learn to spot the counterfeit spirituality, and help our children understand that no matter how appealing it may be, it is false. True spirituality is found when we travel through life with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. The salvation message is not only true, it’s much more satisfying than fortune-cookie wisdom. As you go through life, it’s okay to enjoy the ride. Just be sure to watch where you’re going.


Chuck Colson


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