If you spent anytime inside this summer going to see a movie or looking at the fall previews on Hulu, you likely saw Levi’s Go Forth commercial entitled “Legacy“. The ad is a bit controversial. Glenn Beck accused “Legacy” of “glorifying revolution” thus leading to a boycott of the jeans by Beck and his followers. Due to the riots in London this August, the commercial was band in Britain because it contains scenes of protest. The images of the commercial rotate between 20-somethings at the beach, kissing, dancing in and out of concerts, walking down crowded city streets or standing up to riot police. The youth are portrayed as making their world better, by enjoying life and standing up for what they believe in. They just happen to be doing so in a pair of 501s.
Although the ad is controversial, and frankly stunning when waiting at The Crest to see X-Men: First Class, “Legacy” is filled with good theological themes; themes I wish I heard more from the pulpit. The copy of the commercial comes from a poem written by Charles Bukowski and is entitled “The Laughing Heart”:
“your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
Best Phd it may not be much light but
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be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
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you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
“Legacy” is only one of several of the commercials in Levi’s Go Forth campaign. Both “America” and “O’Pioneer” use the poetry of Walt Whitman and are much more patriotic in theme. Despite its pluralism, “Legacy” takes a theological road. Though I doubt this was intended by either Bukowski or Levi’s.
In many ways “Legacy” is the antithesis of John Mayer’s 2006 song “Waiting on the World to Change.” “Legacy” from the beginning removes any notion of making excuses. If my life really is my life and I am in control of the amount my life gets “clubbed” then there is no reason to wait for change. Instead of making excuses, playing the victim or waiting, “Legacy” states that I have free will and control at least over my small corner of the world. It is much easier to wait for change, or to make excuses. Our churches should be places of empowerment, not excuse making factories.
However, it is not just me making the change, but rather a chance from God. “Legacy” exhorts us to keep our eyes open, to watch for openings from “the gods.” This urge to watch for God is not unlike the sentiment of the psalmist: “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6, NIV). I know that I need constant reminding that God is an active force in my life. Our churches should be places that remove our blinders and help us watch for the chances that God is giving us.
Throughout “The Laughing Heart,” Johannine themes of light and darkness bring optimism for the direst circumstances. Any light in the world should be appreciated no matter how small. While “Legacy” is clear in pointing out that “you can’t beat death,” Christianity is happy to supply that the life of Christ beats death every day. Our Churches should be places that increase and celebrate light. After all “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” (John 1:4-5, The Message)
Despite all the good theological themes, optimism and hope in “Legacy,” it is the last three lines of “The Laughing Heart” that I want to hear preached to congregations: YOU ARE MARVELOUS. GOD IS WAITING TO DELIGHT IN YOU! What could be a more beautiful benediction?