30 ways to sell your faith

Today Marcus and I went to a Family Christian bookstore for the explicit purpose of making fun of the merchandise within. And of course, there was plenty of material for us to make fun of.

First we saw a book called “Jack Bauer’s Having a Bad Day: 24” – a devotional based on the television series 24… What is with the Christian desire to rip off whatever is popular at any given moment? Is this supposed to be witnessing? Are there really atheists who love 24 running out to buy this book because they just realize how cool Christianity was?

Next we walked by the wall of horrible Christian kitsch and I tried to figure out why there was a picture of fruit with the caption “fruit of the Spirit.” Now, I’m not an art critic or historian, but I was doing my best to interpret the abstraction before me. I am just guessing, but I think the grapes are joy… and the strawberries are self-control. But as for the orange, apples, bananas, peach, and pears, I just don’t know.

Perhaps the most offensive things in the store were the bumper stickers. Bumper sticker theology is just bad theology. My personal favorite here was the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) bumper sticker. Except CSI stood for “Christ Saves Individuals.” Yuck.

All these things are bad. But I think they are just working out of a deeper and more disturbing pattern in Christianity. We live in a culture that is defined and dominated by the market and advertising. And Christians have – no doubt with the best of intentions – trying to market Christianity so that everyone will accept it. Though I can see how this is good on some level, I think it ultimately leads to the death of the good news of Christ.

The problem is, there is a sort of logic inherent in marketing. And the logic of the market shapes more than just the market itself. If we begin to think of our faith in terms of how to market it, the logic of the market becomes part of our faith. And the logic of the market is inimical to the logic of Christianity.

The syncretism of the market and the church is very clearly seem in the consumer driven approach of so many churches. A church driven by a marketing logic makes itself a commodity driven by the demands of consumers rather than theology. Preaching the gospel is then a matter of “bait and switch”, i.e., we pull them in by whatever means necessary and then – once we’ve got them – we give them the gospel. I know this doesn’t sound all bad as long as people are getting ”saved.” But, we must realize that the medium by which the gospel is preached in inseparable from the gospel that is preached. Moreover, the medium by which we attract people may actually prevent them from hearing the message.

This, more than anything else, is my problem with Christianity mixed with marketing. The Christian bookstore are fine since they generally only rip off Christian. But, when the attitude of marketing enters the church, it seems that either the market or the church must go.

But, I could be wrong… any thoughts?


Reehb said...

Let's just say I'm glad you're a pastor. We need you(by saying "we" I refer to those of us who are fed up with gal dern worship consumerism). CSI also stands for Christian Schools International. Ha ha.....sorry......

Ethan and Laurel said...

how long until churches use girls in bikinis to get people to come?

Marcus said...

at my church, they make me run around without a shirt on to attract the ladies. It doesn't work very well.