They tell us faith is changing;
There are fewer in the church;
They’re no longer seeking guidance,
Going solo in their search….
So attendance has been hurting—
People say they can’t relate—
And it’s noticeably different
Every time they pass the plate
So the churches weighed their options
And they prayed up to the skies;
Like a bolt of sacred lightning
Came the answer: advertise!
When you want to sell a product
There’s a rule you’ll want to heed;
Take the target demographic
And identify their need!
If you want to fill the churches
And increase your market share
Then you need to send your message
To the people who aren’t there
It’s a pretty standard rule, but
It’s a rule that you can bend—
If your product isn’t needed…
You can always just pretend!
When your product is salvation
There are two competing views…
Because everyone needs Jesus?
Or you need to fill the pews?
Two unrelated stories came together in my reader feed thingy, and made me suspect I just might be cynical.
The first is an NPR story, “U.S. Still Religious, But Trust In Institutions Wanes“. Oddly, it is written by “NPR Staff”, and one of the biggest interviewed experts is… NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty. She says (unsurprisingly) that declining church numbers do not mean that America is less religious.
“Although among young people, belief in God is declining,” Hagerty tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. “But generally polls show that about 90 percent of Americans actually believe in God. So what’s happening here is a decline in the trust of religious organizations.”
People just don’t want to go to church as much as they used to, Hagerty says, and the societal pressures to go aren’t there anymore.
See, it’s not about religion, it’s about a personal relationship with God. Or with Jesus Christ, as the terrorist pastor says. (I link that just in case anyone thinks that the “personal relationship with Jesus” people are somehow more touchy-feely, wishy-washy, safer than organized religious groups.) Hagerty notes that the nondenominational Christians don’t see the falling numbers that the older denominations have, crediting their numbers in part to “marketing”. (It’s actually an interesting article, but that’s where I’m going to leave it right now. I do recommend reading it.)
The next thing in my reader reported on a fairly cool church bulletin:
It continues (for quite a bit, actually) at “Stuff Christians Like” but you get the gist.
At “Stuff Christians Like”, the interpretation is, well, sweet.
I love the thought that a few members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community getting together and saying, “Let’s invite everyone to come meet Jesus!” And then they started writing their list.
And it got long. Why?
Because everyone needs Jesus.
Everyone changes when they meet Jesus.
And they wanted to make sure everyone knew they were invited to meet him.
But I am reminded of an old joke, about a person who used to buy eggs from a local farmer. Sometimes the farmer would deliver the eggs to people’s houses, but they were also for sale at the farm. They were $2.00 a dozen delivered, and $3.00 a dozen at the farm (you can determine the approximate year I heard the joke from these prices). This, of course, made no sense to this particular shopper, who inquired with the farmer as to the pricing.
“Well, when you come to my farm, you need eggs; when I come to your house, I need money.”
Supply and demand, in one simple (not that funny) joke. And that’s what the cynic in me (whom I try to keep chained up) sees in this church bulletin. They need butts in pews. They need warm bodies.
I have to admit, I like the other interpretation better. It would be nice to believe. But it’s just not true. It’s like saying everyone needs homeopathy, or craniosacral therapy, or their chakras manipulated. The truth is homeopaths, craniosacral therapists, and chakra manipulators (?) need money.
And selling salvation beats working.