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Norris captivates capacity crowd at ACU

For immediate release
March 1, 2006

Award-winning poet, writer and author Kathleen Norris captivated a standing-room only crowd in Abilene Christian University's Hart Auditorium Feb. 27 with her comments about the ill effects of marketing rhetoric and the importance of language.

She spoke at ACU throughout Monday as part of the Centennial Speaker Series.  Three additional speakers will be featured this spring.

Norris' evening lecture title, taken from writings 60 years ago by religious author Thomas Merton, was "To Say 'God is Love' is the Same as Saying 'Eat Wheaties.' "

Norris' point was that "all words have become alike, and all reduced to the level of the commercial.  It's increasingly difficult for us to hold anything apart that is sacred."

"We market products as if they are holy," she told the crowd, explaining that marketers now often use religious phrases to market a variety of products.

Using words such as "miracle," "creation," "heaven" and phrases like "comfort and joy," marketers have reduced the value of all words to common commercialism, she explained.

"Our capacity for joy is being debased by marketing using religious language," she said. "How did God and Wheaties get so mixed up in our language?"

No aspect of life is untouched by marketing, she explained. People walk down the street wearing billboards on their clothes promoting Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger, and, in Norris' opinion, they have lost their personal identity to brand marketing.

"Our own self image and self worth depends on what brands we can purchase or display," she said.  "Brands are the marks owners put on their property."

Society will be better served, she said, to allow things to simply be things, and the only way that can happen is to adopt an "I don't care" attitude toward marketing.

"Advertising does not aim to reach our better selves; more like, our inner idiot," she said.

Norris believes the corporate world "says humans have little value except as consumers."  But, she said, God believes differently.

"Our true vocation is to find what word we are to bring into the world," she said.

Norris' popular Christian books include Amazing Grace and Dakota.

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