Should Christians Have an Advertising Campaign?

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I’ve noticed lately a lot of ads that talk about being a Mormon.  Some you might find on television, some online, and I would imagine that in a major city a bus shelter might have such an ad or that you could find one on the side of a building.  If anyone has seen one let me know.

Does advertising and religion mix?  Well, let me rephrase the question, does advertising and spirituality mix?  Everyone has seen ads for The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints.  I think they’re Mormons; but somehow that moniker is catchier than simply using the word “Mormon”.  If I were of a different persuasion, or perhaps I was looking for God but wasn’t sure where he could be found, I can see where someone would want to take a different look at the Mormons, based on this ad.  Then again it could just be how my mind works.

The way I see it when someone is putting out advertisements that means that they have an advertising budget.  That tells me that followers of this faith either have a lot of money going into the offering plate, or they have their own businesses from which they funnel money into these ads.  It also suggests that their tactics are a bit more sophisticated than merely passing out tracts or standing on a crate on a street corner.  Though I do think that there is a time for both, because you have to go to the people instead of trying to get in their head and encouraging them to come in the church all the time it is worth taking notice of.

Christianity is a huge umbrella.  Some of us believe in the trinity, some of us believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and many do not believe in the trinity and many do not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way into heaven.  What seems to unite us is our belief in Jesus Christ, though clearly, many do not believe in the importance of a relationship with him in the same way that others do.  Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses, for example, do not believe what Protestants believe.  We all believe in Jesus Christ, but we all have our differences.  But the only “denomination” you see advertising are the Mormons.

What I do find fascinating is that as a kid I always saw advertisements for the The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints, but no more.  Now it is simply advertisements stating “I’m a Mormon”.  Not all Mormons are taking this sitting down; in research I found this article that states that the new ads do not accurately present the reality of what truly goes on.  Well that got my attention; but this much I already knew, and I will tell you why.  For everyone that fits the stereotypical image (or new found images crafted through advertisements) of any faith there are a few loose cannons, some outcasts, some rebels, some disenfranchised individuals that are also part of the faith that do not fit in nicely with what the world, or others of the same religious/spiritual persuasion, like to think.  Sometimes those individuals find their true calling and are some of the most articulate voices within the faith, and at other times they are persecuted as much within the walls of the church that they are on the outside, but they inevitably go back into the world where they came from.

Christians have a presence in the media, without question.  But you also have to wonder at what point do Christians feel that advertising campaigns and the tools of the mainstream media are disingenuous.  I read an interesting article asking why Christian movies are so awful.  The article also doubled as a review for the movie “Soul Surfer”, which I did not even know was a Christian film (I actually thought it was the other way around, some New Age calling to surf or spiritual quest realized through surfing) and now my face rests firmly in my palm.  But aside from my ignorance I can see where the readers that responded to the article were coming from.  The film dealt heavily in ambiguities which kept it from being too preachy or kitschy, that I get.

One response stated that evangelicals lack irony and humor.  Perhaps we are not as abstract or cerebral as we could be, or simply assume that in doing so we are leaving room for doubt or for the message to be construed a different way.  But then we end up with these lukewarm films that talk about God, some God, any one’s God, but aren’t specifically talking about Jesus Christ.  At the same time, there are different levels, and once one does develop a relationship with God, they will seek out “harder” material for themselves in time; you can’t base your entire relationship off of a movie or a record.  Or it could be that the best “Christian” films aren’t even being directed or produced by Christians, as some claim.

Should Christians carefully control their message, or leave it up to one group of people, as would seem to be the case with the Mormon ads. Or should we leave things the way they are, where those with the nerve and audacity to put out Christian material do; even though the message may not even resonate with most Christians, let alone those outside of the faith?  We have always agreed to disagree, so I am not even sure if we could do such a thing.  Does the world even want a mainstream, slick, well produced, high budget, artful and intellectual display of our faith or do they prefer the grassroots version?  There are a lot of interesting things going on, but I am not sure if an advertising campaign should necessarily one of those things we are remembered by …

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