Finding God in A Strange Place: Soteriology in a KIA Soul Commercial? Why not?!

Permit me to go in this post from serious sublimity, to silly stretching. But I saw a car ad the other day and recalled an insight of how God saves us. “How one earth?” you may say. Well, on the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross lets look….

Let me begin with the sublime. And for that I turn to Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. Many years ago (more than 25) I got a series of 24 cassette tapes. They were wonderful recordings of a set of instructions he prepared for converts to the Catholic Faith. If you have never heard of that series you can find it here: A Sheen Catechism.

In this series, Archbishop Sheen made an insightful point that I am relating to you from memory. I beg mercy if I do not quote him exactly, but his point related to soteriology, the theology of how we are saved. Now to be clear, we are saved by the obedience of Christ. But not all the consequences of our sinful choice were eliminated. Some of these consequences the Lord takes up as a means to save us. It is of these consequences that Archbishop Sheen sepaks. Again, what I relate is not verbatim but is as close as I can remember:

Consider that God were conducting a great symphony, a symphony that He Himself composed, of sublime beauty. Now suppose he wrote that symphony in the Key of A. Having assembled His orchestra God brings them to attention and begins the symphony. But suppose in the front row, the first and second violinists, filled with a sense of rebellion and boredom by the third measure, insisted on playing the note A-Flat, rather than the A-natural called for by the score. This of course created a terrible dissonance. And so God, the great conductor and composer brought the orchestra to a halt by tapping his baton. Looking to the first and second violinists, he said, “My symphony has been ruined. I will forgive but the note has sounded and gone forth. It will not be recalled. So, what was that note you played?” The first and second violinists said “A-Flat!” “Fine then,” said God, “Let us begin our new Symphony in the key of A-Flat.” And raising his baton, he began.

What is Archbishop Sheen saying here? He is saying that in saving us, God does not merely undo or cancel every effect of our choice. Jesus does obey, saying yes to the Father, whereas we had said no and hence we are saved by his obedience. But God does not merely come in and say, well, you got that wrong so I am just going to reverse everything you did and put it back to the way I want it. There is a very deep reverence that our all-powerful God has for our freedom we had to chose in this sense. And so he chooses to write straight with the crooked lines, the consequences of our sinful choice.

What then does God do? Using Sheen’s analogy he takes our “A-Flat,” the consequences of our choice and uses it as the key note in a new symphony. In other words, though God had given life, and paradise (A Natural), Adam and Eve chose the way of suffering and death (A-Flat). Hence, rather than merely erase what they had done, God said, “I will come and, through suffering and death, (A-Flat), compose a new symphony with an even greater ending. Through the suffering and death of my own Son, and by his obedience, I will compose a new symphony, one that ends with humanity not in some mere earthly paradise, but a heavenly one. One that ends with humanity not as just humanly perfect, but as sharers in Divine nature. Yes, my Son will take A-Flat and make of it a new song, an even greater song.” O felix culpa, O admirabile commercium (O happy fault, O wondrous exchange)!

Where our demise came through a man (Adam), a woman (Eve), and a tree, now too our redemption would would come from a new Adam (Christ) and include a new woman (Mary) and the tree of the cross. Suffering death, the chosen note of Adam and Eve (A-Flat) would now be the first note in a new symphony, bringing life and glory, all by God’s grace.

And our suffering and crosses too would do the same in this new symphony, this new song. As scripture says, This light, temporary nature of our suffering is producing for us an everlasting, weight of glory, far beyond any comparison (2 Cor 4:17). Yes, God took our sour note and and composed a new song, with a greater ending.

And that brings us the video below. I have to say, maybe I am just zany-brainy, but I saw Archbishop Sheen’s soteriological point in, of all places, a car ad for the “KIA Soul” (yes, aptly named). And I realize that what I am doing is pure eisegesis, that is, reading a meaning into the video that the originator likely never intended. But go with me on this little journey.

  1. As the video opens a terrible war is raging between two unknown parties. A-Flat is in loud evidence. In fact, if you have a good Bose woofer, the pounding A-Flat explosions shake the floor. The whole landscape and almost everything is in shades of gray, and everything is in ruins. Yes, this is the sour note of A-flat alright: death, violence, barrenness, not a living thing in sight, even the warring parties are robots.
  2. Suddenly into this scene drives a bright green “KIA Soul” with three occupants. Let the green represent life, and the three occupants, represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (I know they’re hamsters, but stay with me).
  3. The warring parties stop, stunned by this bright green car, and aim their weapons at it. Out emerge the three living creatures, the Trinity, far more alive than any of the fighting robots. A tense moment ensues.
  4. The middle figure is a Christ figure, for he wears purple, a sign of his royalty and his passion.
  5. Suddenly the Christ figure cries out and all three in the Trinity begin to stop their feet. It is the same pounding A-Flat beat that the robots have been creating by their killing, it is a kind of a sound of death.
  6. But now the Trinity is using the A-Flat beat to dance!
  7. Suddenly, one of the robots starts to tap his foot, other robots quickly join in and before long, all are dancing. Same A-flat beat, but the Trinity has composed a new symphony around it.
  8. Weapons drop and the dancing ensues. Some of the dead even come back to life. The former flying war machines emanate rainbow patterns in the background.
  9. In a very symbolic moment the Christ figure in purple stands atop a concrete circle in the shape of a tree stump, as if Christ on his Cross in triumph dancing to A-Flat. The A-Flat of suffering that leads only to death is becoming life. A-flat doesn’t need to lead to war, if accepted it can lead to glory. The Lord teaches them a new song to the same note.
  10. In the final scene the “Trinity” drive down a road flanked by enthusiastic praises as the A-Flat dance continues.In the distance is the mountain where God dwells on high.

OK, too weird? Call me a dreamer but this is what I see. If all you choose to see is a car commercial, fine. But it never hurts to see Christ where ever we can. Man had disobeyed and ushered in an A-Flat world of suffering and death. God forgave us and Jesus undid our disobedience. But God, showing a reverence for us even in our struggle, takes our A-Flat of suffering and death and makes it a road to glory, the way to heaven.

Enjoy this video.

19 Replies to “Finding God in A Strange Place: Soteriology in a KIA Soul Commercial? Why not?!”

  1. Monsignor! You have outdone yourself! I can imagine Archbishop Sheen teaching the lesson the way you related it; he spoke in “word pictures,” so that it was always easy to remember his preaching. But then you took it to the next level–updated the lesson, relating the wisdom of ages for the current age to relate and understand.

    And yet the cross is still a great mystery, not just the cross of Christ, but our personal crosses, how they can be transformed into the way to salvation.

    As for the authors of the video never intending this message, perhaps this is that divine spark in the human soul, who may not know Him, but nevertheless shows forth His glory.

    Thank you for this insightful–memorable–delightful–and always worth reading post.

  2. Thank you so much, Monsignor! I am looking forward to sharing this with my 18 year old son tomorrow & see what he thinks about it!!

  3. Msgr. Pope,

    I love your columns, and this one is no exception. Well done!

    I’d just like to mention that Servant of God Bishop Sheen’s analogy reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkein’s creation narrative in The Silmarillion (“The Music of the Ainur”). If you have not had a chance to read at least that chapter, please do. The “myth” is a beautiful understanding of how God takes our rebellion and creates beautiful music with it.

  4. I despise pop culture and consumerism. But seeing this video illuminated by your description moved me very deeply. I almost can’t believe that I was profoundly affected by electronic music and silly dancing (by mice no less!), but I was! Thank you, Monsignor.

    And let me echo Nicholas’ recommendation for all to read that first chapter of the Silmarillion (then, read the rest of the book). It brings to life the metaphor that Archbishop Sheen uses.

  5. So cool! Is it me, or did it look like there were rainbows at the end??
    My kids like this commercial, and now I may show them that God IS everywhere!!
    Thank you!!!!

  6. Well, thank you for that, Father! The only other point I was ever able to get from the commercial – being probably an excessive literalist – was that if Earth were ever to suffer an alien robot invasion, we should buy Kia Souls. Which, I guess I’m glad the market is able to fill that niche with an appropriate product, but I wonder if that is the best use of investor funding. Preaching the gospel in season and out of season is probably always a good use of funding.

  7. I think this post articulates a great spiritual reality, a soul in Love with Christ discovers Him in every good thing. And I learned a new word too- Soteriology! Dealing with salvation history and in particular the role of Christ in salvation history.

  8. Msgr. Pope,

    I also saw the parallel that Nicholas Jagneaux points out to the Silmarillion. However, I would not read *more* than that chapter unless it is assigned to you as penance for a particularly grievous sin! 🙂

    Seriously, Tolkien was a great writer, but the Silmarillion was intended to be private “background notes” for Middle Earth. He never intended it to be published, and having once read it, I have to agree with his decision!

    1. Howard,

      “unless it is assigned to you as penance for a particularly grievous sin!

      I fully understand what you’re getting at. There are some very long stretches that require patience with that book. But, there were other parts that are on with The Lord of the Rings. It is something I’d recommend only for the (at least moderately) serious enthusiast.

      But, “The Music of the Ainur” is worthwhile.

  9. Okay, extending the metaphor…
    There is a 4th hamster who joins in with the music the 3 hamsters bring. He plays the bongos (keeping the beat). He was not in the car, nor does he drive away. Could he be the Church?
    …just a thought.

  10. I just read that Kia’s new ad agency, the one that came up with the Hamster Trinity, is called David and Goliath! Isn’t THAT interesting?

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