As I’ve been watching college bowl games over the past few weeks, I’ve appreciated the commercial above, which has been in heavy rotation on ABC/ESPN. It stars legendary Notre Dame coach and TV commentator Lou Holtz. He appeals to that large segment of the American population (about one in ten, I think) known as “lapsed Catholics,” urging them to come back to church.
Yes, the ad is a little corny, but it packs a lot of good theology into 30 seconds. Holtz doesn’t say anything that a Protestant should find objectionable. “We gain strength through God’s Word. We receive grace through the sacrament.” (I’m sure many Catholics would prefer to reverse the order of those two means of grace, but I think it’s just right.)
I also like the fact that it’s a church ad that appeals specifically to men. We United Methodists, by contrast, produce soft, effeminate commercials around a theologically troubling theme (“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”) that tell men, in so many words, “Stay away! ESPN has an excellent NFL pre-game show on Sunday morning.”
One evangelical pastor who grew up Catholic wrote this mostly appreciative assessment of the “Catholics Come Home” campaign. I especially like his last paragraph:
Speaking as an evangelical pastor, card-carrying Calvinist, want-to-stand-up-and-salute-when-I-hear-Luther’s-Mighty-Fortress kind of guy, I nonetheless feel secure enough in my Protestant convictions to express appreciation for elements of the Catholics Come Home programs and other New Evangelization efforts. Turning away from sin, commitment to reading Scripture, looking to the Savior, protecting the life of the unborn, serving the poor—these and other such themes are ones that Protestants can affirm, even though we disagree with the institutionalized structure of Catholic authority, the role of the sacraments, and requisite precepts surrounding them. This sort of measured response—consciously gracious while rooted in biblical principles—is more intellectually honest, more missionally compelling, and more genuinely Christian.