Monday, February 16, 2004

The Entrepreneurs of Evangelicalism at it again

The Southern Baptist Convention (one of my former denominational incarnations) is in missionary blitzkrieg mode again, this time in Manhattan. What gets me is two things: 1) the marketing tactics and 2) the marketing mentality that they rely on.

1) They can't even openly admit to being "Southern Baptist" in the names of their church plants, opting for hiply coded monikers like "The Journey," which I freely associate with the 80s rock band more than with anything Christian. Sounds a lot like Philip Morris not putting its name on its Kraft cheese packages. Who would buy cheese from Big Tobacco? It's smart marketing, but I'm not sure what it implies about fate of the Southern Baptist brand.

2) They try assuage the concerns of non-SBC faiths that the SBC will aggressively proselytize and "prey" upon their respective flocks. Then the SBC goes ahead and does it anyway. But hey, religion is a competitive sport. You've got to have "brass balls" and your ABCs ("Always Be Closing!" as Alec Baldwin exhorted his salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross). So forget real immersion and solidarity with people and place. Recruit secular capitalism's champions like Krispy Creme, Starbucks, and MTV as mercenaries of evangelization.

Marketing treats humans as manipulable, mechanistic objects (which we are to a large degree). I just don't think I need religion treating me as such.