Fishy religion-spoof: Do you ‘sea’ fun or blasphemy?

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A new ad campaign for Legal Seafood urges people to convert to "Pescatarianism." It was created by the company's long-time ad agency, DeVito/Verdi, based in New York.

A new ad campaign for Legal Seafood urges people to convert to "Pescatarianism." It was created by the company's long-time ad agency, DeVito/Verdi, based in New York.

A new ad campaign for Legal Seafood urges people to convert to "Pescatarianism." It was created by the company's long-time ad agency, DeVito/Verdi, based in New York.

A new ad campaign for Legal Sea Foods urges people to convert to “Pescatarianism.” It was created by the company’s longtime ad agency, DeVito/Verdi, based in New York.

(RNS) Quiz: Are these tag lines from Comedy Central, a commercial ad campaign or the church on your corner?

  • “Moses split the Red Sea. We split lobster tails and drizzle melted butter on them.”
  • “In our book, gluttony isn’t a sin, it’s a commandment.”
  • “Presbyterians will give you a sermon. Pescatarians will give you a salmon.”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

If you said ad campaign, you may be one of the people laughing at the 30-second TV commercials now running in Boston, home of the East Coast’s Legal Sea Foods restaurant chain, and posted at the chain’s Pescatarian religion spoof website.

Legal Sea Food’s New York ad agency, DeVito/Verdi, created the campaign, which launched July 6,  using religion themes to urge people to “convert” to being a Pescatarian, the term for those who eat fish and seafood but shun meat and poultry.

Roger Berkowitz, the chief executive of Legal Sea Foods, told The Boston Globe he was the “high priest” of fish-eaters and loved “the idea that we’re elevating seafood to a religious experience.”


READ: Told ya so! The UAE’s new ‘anti-discrimination’ law is already being abused to censor critics


The chain’s press release, sardine-packed with pescatarian puns, listed all the ad vehicles, including a “Salmon is my co-pilot” bumper sticker and a website with a playful pescatarian creed and famous adherents (Noah?). The release quotes an altar call from Berkowitz, who’s Jewish, saying he hopes “people take this campaign in the ‘spirit’ in which it was created, so to speak.”

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek campaign,” said Kelly Durcan, a spokesman for DeVito/Verdi. Of course, he added, “not everyone takes it that way. We hear some people find it funny but we mainly get complaints that it’s more or less blasphemous.”

A writer for Forbes, Will Burns, called it funny but risky.

So far, The Boston Globe hasn’t noted any complaints from area churches.


READ: Pope Francis on free speech: ‘You cannot insult the faith of others’


Neither has the Archdiocese of Boston’s publication, The Pilot. The archdiocese spokesman could not be, er, fished out of important meetings for comment on Tuesday.

Neither is the campaign exactly going viral. The YouTube video showing the TV spots has 1,205 views. A search of the most likely followers — #pescatarian on Twitter — led to restaurant tips, recipe links and some yummy food photos, but no readily apparent outcry from religious people or groups offended by the campaign.

Sticking a fork in the eye of advertising conventions is a familiar act at Legal Sea Foods.

In 2012, the chain advertised a “Jesus fish”  and claimed that dining at its restaurants is a “religious experience.”

In 2008, local transit workers were not enchanted when the Green Line trolleys sported restaurant ads such as “This conductor has a face like a halibut.

LM/MG END GROSSMAN

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  • Zachary Wyatt

    This looks more like they’re poking fun at the stereotypical TV content we see all too often from religious shows and religious commercials. I don’t see the ads attacking religion as much as I see them mocking the cliched marketing that most of us are probably pretty tired of.

  • Dominic

    It’s actually just “tacky”, not particularly clever or funny.

  • Bernardo

    What Legal Fish Company failed to say:

    Mark 6:33-44 =Matt 9:36; 14:13b-21 = Luke 9:11-17 (The “fish” replication “miracle” myth)

    http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb003.html

    “Professor Gerd Luedemann [Jesus, 45] offers the following historical judgment of the account in Mark 6:

    The formation of this story derives from the needs of the community. Its historical value is nil. Anyone is free to accept the table fellowship of Jesus and his followers as a starting point for the rise of this story. But that is rather different from the feeding of the 5000.

    John P. Meier- theology professor at Notre Dame:

    “Meier [Marginal Jew II,966] suggests that the Gospel stories of Jesus feeding a multitude preserves a tradition about “some especially memorable communal meal of bread and fish” but does not think it possible to offer a judgment on whether anything miraculous was involved in the meal event. See pp. 950-967 for his complete discussion.”

  • Kyle

    And that’s exactly why we shouldn’t listen to most “theologians”!

  • Bernardo

    And why is that as said theologians and historians have studied the situation with rigorous historic testing? Have you tested these same passages other than to take the word of some non-witness (i.e. Mark) who we know very little about?

  • Larry

    Theologians don’t do rigorous testing of anything. Religious studies is one of those things which requires nothing resembling academic or intellectual rigor. Solely that one can be creative in confirming the pre-existing beliefs of one’s sect that they are studying.

    Theology is not history, it is not science, it is barely on par with literary studies.

  • ben in oakland

    I’d have to agree. If theologians knew anything, we wouldn’t have literally thousands of faiths, each one claiming to be the truth.

    Oh. That isn’t what you meant, is it?

  • Bernardo

    Thousands of faiths?

    http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

    Religion………………………… Adherents

    Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion

    Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion

    Irreligious/agnostic/atheism…… 1.1 billion

    Hinduism 900 million
    Chinese traditional religion 394 million
    Buddhism 376 million
    Animist religions 300 million
    African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
    Sikhism 23 million
    Juche 19 million
    Spiritism 15 million

    Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million

    Baha’i 7 million
    Jainism 4.2 million
    Shinto 4 million
    Cao Dai 4 million
    Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
    Tenrikyo 2 million
    Neo-Paganism 1 million
    Unitarian Universalism 800,000
    Rastafari Movement 600,000

  • Bernardo

    Tis good to review the elements of rigorous historic testing which would include the testing of the “miracles” listed in the NT since there was no forensic science in first century Palestine, rigorous historic testing is essential.

    Rigorous historic testing relies on the number of independent attestations, the time of the publications of said attestations, the content as it relates to the subject and time period, and any related archeological evidence.

    The NT has been subjected to said testing by the likes of Professors JD Crossan and Gerd Ludemann with their results published at no cost on line.

  • Bernardo

    Continued from above:

    For example: The “miracle” of the changing of water into wine by Jesus- John 2: 1-11

    From Crossan’s on-line inventory a thttp://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?title=Crossan_Inventory_Stratum2 : #349 , http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?title=349_Water_into_Wine (negative, historically nil conclusion based on a, single attestation in the second stratum (60-80 CE)

    Followed by more commentary and conclusions at http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb349.html

  • Tony

    RE: Thousands of faiths:
    Christianity
    o Has 200+ different versions of their bible
    o Has 20k – 40k different sects. We’ve broken thousands and we haven’t even hit #2 on the list
    o Christian sects disagree so much that they even bomb/kill adherents of the other flavors (The Crusades, Northern Ireland, etc.)

    Islam
    o Has three main sects with history of inter sect violence.

    Hinduism
    o Has four main sects that disagree on a lot of fundamental issues.

    Buddhism
    o Has three major and one minor sect that disagree and have experienced inter-sect violence.

    African traditional/diasporic religions
    o Not one religion, but a collection of religions that are all sure they’re right and the others are wrong.

    Sikhism
    o Seven major sects, all convinced that their interpretation of the one shared teachings is the correct interpretation

    Judaism
    o Five major sects, with the more orthodox convinced the less-restrictive variations are wrong.

    etc. Yes, there are literally…

  • Bernardo

    You noted thousands of faiths in your original category. The breakdown into sects does not change the faith of Christians as they all believe that Jesus is their Savior. Muslims of different sects all believe in their prophet Mohammed. Etc.

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  • Scott

    Religion is a spoof on reality, so the ad is a spoof of a spoof. It’s funny.

    As to thousands of religions, there have been hundreds of thousands of gods worshiped. Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Moon, Zeus, Koresh, etc., are nothing special.