Selling God

15 May

1. A crisp twenty dollar  bill  was nestled inside the pages of my library book. Just as thanks of praise to the heavens left my lips, I paused. Something wasn’t right. Once I unfolded the gift, I saw that it was 3/4ths the size of the typical Jackson.

I flipped the money on its back for further examination.

“Disappointed?” it read, “Jesus won’t let you down.” Then the counterfeit bill reassured me that God would give us the things money can’t buy.

 

2. A  series of stark white billboards line the city’s major highway. They bear no brand name or logo. Instead only bold, black letters fill the space. The simplicity separates it from the other glitzy, gaudy, loud advertisements battling for the averting eyes of drivers. 

“We are all sinners. Jesus can save us,” one plainly read. No church, no pastor, no organizational plug. 

3. In a world where the individual is king and everyone seeks their 30 minutes of fame, signs of people proclaiming “I am Second,” are abnormal. 

Second to what? What, then, is first? After weeks of pondering billboards of people promoting their secondary status, my cousin informed me of the campaign’s true purpose.

 

Karl Marx declared religion, ” the opiate of the masses.” 

Its very essence appeals most to those who have little in this world and it promises only the things money cannot buy: peace, happiness, joy, security, forgiveness and assurance. 

Religion and spirituality were the saving grace of countless generations of people in oppression. 

Ironically, religion has also been the rallying call of their oppressors. Slaveowners used passages of scripture to justify their ownership of another human being. The Crusades proudly waved the banner of Christianity over the blood of the conquered. 

It inspires both the best and worst of mankind. 

The United States was founded by people fleeing religious persecution.

But, in 2011, what is the role of religion in society?

Prayer is banned from schools to arguably secure religious freedom and maintain the separation of church and state. 

Yet, our right-wing legislation reflects the infusion of the two, as Republicans crush Planned Parenthood in open attempts to snuff out the reproductive freedom of the masses. 

Prayer is uttered before every city council meeting in Dallas. 

And politicians work the church circuit during campaign seasons. 

Perhaps, they provide the most accurate metric of the state of religion in the U.S.

Many, like the eager candidates, see church and religion as simply another networking opportunity, a place to pass out business cards, another way to enter the old boy’s club or  sneak into the desired crowd. 

For many, religion is simply a pretext for connections for personal and professional mobility.

That outward manifestation, that sense of “us vs. them” is what makes me shy away from religion and simply seek to grow spiritually. 

That’s what I like about each of the campaigns encountered. 

Through posing as something everybody unabashedly wants (money), or through shockingly bare-bones statements of faith or through a clever campaign proudly proclaiming to be second in a world where everyone longs to be  first, these organizations lend their voice have each seized my attention and made me ponder my spirituality. 

The religious world has the most difficult marketing job on earth — They must convince the doubting masses to invest in a something no  one can see, smell or touch.


In the world battling a sea of pretty distractions, churches and religious organizations fight to break through the clutter.


 

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