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FIRST-PERSON: What’s that got to do with burgers?

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“It’s all about the sales,” Andrew Puzder told USA Today. The CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains, was adamant as he defended a sleazy television commercial his company is using to promote its new “Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger.”

Like many Americans, Puzder worships at the altar of materialism where sales are sovereign, profit is sacred and “Thou shalt be pragmatic” is the foremost of all the commandments.

In order to boost burger sales, Puzder is currently pushing a 30-second television spot that features a scantily clad Paris Hilton, a flashy car and a hamburger.

Puzder told CNN that those who object to the spot should “Get a life.” He said, “There is no nudity, there is [sic] no sex acts.” Puzder added, “It’s a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car.”

If Puzder considers his titillating commercial merely a model washing a car, I wonder if he considers Hooters a family restaurant and Playboy a good magazine (after all, I hear it has “good” articles)?

No nudity? Puzder is technically correct. Ms. Hilton does not expose all of her skin in the commercial, but her body, barely covered by a skin-tight one-piece suit, is prominently on display (which is really nothing new for the blond hotel heiress).

No sex acts? Again, from a technical point of view, Mr. Puzder is correct. Ms. Hilton does not actually engage in sexual activity per se. She does, however, get rather intimate with some wet sponges. Toss in writhing on the floor and rubbing against the car and you have 30-seconds of salacious sleaze (which is really nothing new for the blond star of television’s “The Simple Life”).

The commercial concludes with the tag-line, “The Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger — That’s hot.”

It is worth noting that the hamburger Puzder says the ad is promoting only appears in the spot for three, at tops five, seconds.

Puzder maintains that his “semi-pornographic” — the term that Barbara Lippert of AdWeek magazine used to describe the spot — commercial is not sleazy. He told CNN that there are far worse things on television.

Puzder is not alone in his thinking. In a country where too many are willing to worship the god of materialism, the bottom line is all that matters. And whatever helps get you there is baptized as good. The end justifies the means, no matter how unseemly or unethical.

The same mentality drives an athlete to turn to steroids. The risk of a damaged body in the future is worth the trade-off for success and financial rewards today. And, they say, other players are doing it (some are even doing worse).

Stock-brokers engage in shady trading practices. Job candidates spice up their resumes. Citizens fudge on tax returns. Employers hire illegal workers. Politicians pad bills with pork that will benefit constituents. The state promotes gambling as a source of revenue. I could go on ad nauseam. Each justifies their actions in the name of the bottom line. And, after all, there are so many other people in America doing far worse things.

Capitalism — the economic engine that drives American free enterprise — is not in and of itself bad. Neither is the quest for profit. However, the Bible warns that the love of money (materialism) is the root of all kinds of evil.

We will serve that which we worship.

When materialism becomes a god, then sales, profit and pragmatism translate into sacred ideals. Once that happens, anything is justified for the sake of enhancing the bottom line — even a nearly naked woman “washing” an expensive automobile to promote a hamburger.
Kelly Boggs is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. His column appears in Baptist Press each Friday.

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