Saturday, August 27, 2005

Church Marketing is Big Business

A short work of historical fiction and parody used as a means of venting my frustration with modern American church culture's obsession with consumerist marketing schemes

The Disciples were walking silently down toward the valley. Their faces wore a mixture of trepidation and wonder. The afternoon sun was shining down on their backs and shoulders, and against the rocky terrain and low growing scrub brush, their procession stirred a low spreading cloud of dust.

As they reached the cross road, they grabbed each other by the shoulders and kissed each other’s cheeks, then broke off into groups of two, with each duo heading off in a different direction.Peter, as usual, was egging them on, shouting over his shoulder at the receding groups. “Now remember brothers, He gave us His power. All we have to do is do what He said. So when I get to the next village, I’m going to find the ugliest leper I can find…and hug the disease OUT of him!” The laughter from the travelers echoed off the valley walls and provided the right ring to the start of their adventure.

James and John had paired off together. It was hard to separate those brothers. It was said that the only way to do it would be through death. As they walked, James wondered out loud, “Do you really think we will be able to heal lepers?”

“I don’t know…well…yes. Yes I do think we could…He said we could.” Said John, trying to sound authoritative, but only sounding a little more ridiculous than he felt.

“Healing the sick seems so easy when He does it, and it always changes everything, makes it better. I hope we can do that.” Said James, quite genuinely.

“I think that’s the point. To do good. If we do good, and let everyone know that that good came because the Kingdom of God came close enough to bring it, then I think that’s what He wants.” Said John, sounding a lot more mature than he was.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! C’mon guys, what kind of marketing strategy is THAT?” said a voice from behind the two men.
James and John turned around, and found that another traveler had joined them. He was a youngish man with a clean-shaven face. He was wearing a black suit-coat, a white shirt opened at the top two buttons, a pair of blue jeans and expensive European tennis shoes. His hair was perfectly coifed to look as though he had just rolled out of bed, an intentional mess. He wore gold chains around his neck, exposed through the open buttons on his shirt. His fingers sported several massive rings, and there were gold bracelets on his wrists.The disciples looked at him in blinking, stupefied wonder.

Finally, John cleared his throat and asked, “A what kind of strategy?”

“Marketing, Bubby, marketing!” said the man with a broad smile and a wink and a quick point with his index finger at John.

“I’m not following?” said James hesitantly.

“Bubby, listen. You got something to sell, am I right? You want people to buy it, nes pa? Bubby, they aint gonna buy it if you aint sellin’ it right. You have to market what you want people to buy, you gotta’ let them know they can’t live without it, and there is nothing else like it on the face of the planet. You have to make them think you care about their needs so they’ll trust you enough to think your product is the answer they’re looking for!” Said the man, with a lot more winking and smiling and pointing.

John suddenly looked as though he comprehended the situation. He shook his head and with a friendly smile said, “Oh I get it now. You’ve misunderstood what we’re doing. We aren’t selling anything. We just want to let people know that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand, and show the possibility of that by doing good and helping people. What they do with that evidence is up to them. It’s what our Master said we should do.”

“Oh Bubby!” exclaimed the man.

“Uh, my name is John.”

“Boyo, have you got a lot to learn about people! People want to be sold something, don’t you get it? They don’t really care if it’s good for them or meets a genuine need; they just want to feel good about themselves for choosing the right thing, or getting the best deal. They don’t even care if it’s real, as long as they feel smugly superior to their shmuck neighbor who doesn’t have the sense to get the deal that they got. If you don’t sell something, and make people feel good about themselves for getting the right thing, then you my friends will get nowhere and fast!”

John and James exchanged a quick and knowing glance. Then James smiled and moved toward the man, putting his arm around him.

“You know, maybe you’re on to something there…Boyo.” He said with a soothing voice, slowly maneuvering himself behind the stranger. Then with the suddenness of a lunging cat, both brothers sprang into action, James dropping to his knees, and John rushing straight at the stranger to push him over backwards across James’ back.

“Whoa!” shouted the man.

“Let’s get outta’ here!” shouted James to John, and both brothers went off at a sprint, laughing and glancing over their shoulders at the stranger as they went.

“Marketing my ass.” Said John with a slight snicker.

“Hmmm,” said James, looking down at his brother’s behind, “Naw, it’ll never sell.”The Brothers walked on, arms across each other’s shoulder, towards the nearest village, towards the changing of the world as it was known.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Reversification Glass

It is one of those things that occurs to you only when trying to draw a caricature of yourself. After finishing up the drawing, you look at it and realize that something may not be right, but you can't put your finger on it. Then it hits you. You've drawn the image the way you'd see it in a mirror, and you've put the part in the hair on the wrong side.

All I know about my own image is known to me in reverse. There is a backwards man who stares back at me in the mornings as I shave, and he has been an odd curiosity to me all my life. As a child, the tooth that was missing from my mouth was on the right side, but his left was gone. As a teen the pimple on the left side of my face was on his right side. I've never been totally sure how much I can trust someone who seems so opposite of me, yet we face off daily.

I try to remind myself that he is not exactly who I am, just a representation. Sure, when I grab my wife's curling iron and sing into it like a microphone, his lips move in concert with mine, and his face scowls as I sing "Its only Rock and Roll", but I notice he's not really singing. Mine is the only voice in the room, he just comes along for the show. He never really sings, or talks or makes a noise at all. He's not really me, just a backwards imitation of me.

Its hard to remember that. He seems so much like me. And in all honesty, my most recent memory of what I look like is picture of him. But his part is on the wrong side, and he doesn't ever sing, and that's just not like me at all.
Every day I have to remind myself, it's just a reverse image of me, but it's not me.

"I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? "

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 7:18-25