Monday, July 02, 2007

Selling Christianity: Apparently We're Not Even Shy About It Anymore

Accompanying Christianity Today's tribute to Evan Almighty is this rather blunt discussion of Christian publishing's search for "the next big thing" that will line its coffers as the Rick Warren and Joel Osteen waves subside. The materialistic motivations are so obvious that I'm actually surprised at the level of transparency the article reveals.

About the same time I read about this blatant marketing of the Christian faith, I read these words from David Wells' Above All Earthly Powers:
[Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker's excursions into profit-driven Christian broadcasting and theme parks] were but the front end of a growing Christian penetration of the commercial market. Earlier rock bands such as Stryper, dressed and made up like other heavy metal bands of the 1980s, were now followed by many others like Audio Adrenaline and solo artists like Amy Grant and others who were among those in 2000 who helped the Christian music industry expand into a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar business when the rest of the music market retreated, though it was praise music in particular which was responsible for this. Religious trinkets, videos, movies, and Bibles in every conceivable size and covering, Bibles for singles, for the depressed, for the young, for the old, for the divorced, for the recovering, for African Americans, Bibles fitted for every niche in the market, were all for sale. Today there are Christian amusement parks and dance clubs, and sermons for sale for pastors who are too harried or too indolent to do the work themselves.

It has not gone unnoticed in the secular world that there is gold in these religious hills. The result is that today there are evangelical publishing houses which are the religious arms of secular corporations, and Songs 4 Worship, a successful collection of Christian music, lavishly advertised on the TV networks, was launched by Time-Life. In 2002, General Motors unleashed sixteen Christian rock bands in a number of southern cities under the banner "Chevrolet Presents: Come Together and Worship." All of this, however, was only one end of a growing alliance between commerce and spirituality or, at least, the growing use of spirituality by commerce. (284-285)
Finally, if anyone is still reading, you'll find a great discussion of these trends on Albert Mohler's radio program with Russell Moore sitting in as guest host. Particularly interesting is Moore's interview with Jim Smith, editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, on why he refused to accept advertising for Evan Almighty in his paper.


Anonymous said...

It is interesting and sad how our society is so degradated & so "Christianized" at the same time. It is good to step back and look at where we truely are at as far as Christianity.

Ryan Martin said...

The old medieval reformers as well as the Protestants used to have a name for this sort of thing--simony.