ReBranding the Faith.. for a President

Mitt Romney as Mormon trying to convince Voters

Graphic from faithmouse.blogspot.com

I was born in the last days of a Nixon administration, remember nothing of a the Ford presidency, have some recollection of Carter administration and was totally into a Regan presidency (though I had no clue why except that my parents liked him). Wasn’t old enough to vote for George H. Bush, but since then I have payed attention and voted in every election since then.

Somewhere along the road of all this religion became important… almost, too important.. the only thing important

History tells me it was a big deal when Kennedy was elected president because he was Catholic. Growing up around catholics in NJ I was confused why that was a big deal. Catholics were generally good folks. They did their mass, drank a lot of beer at the carnival beer garden and their kids played on my soccer team with me. I call them my friends.

We are now seeing the mormon church starting to ‘re-brand’ itself in a light so that they are seen as regular folks with possible, underlying, hopes that Mitt Romney (or now Jon Huntsman). This shouldn’t come as a surprise, the news was out there back last fall with their ‘regular person’ ad campaign.

My thought is, why does a church need to do this?

I don’t really know any folks who are mormons as close friends. Have met many along my years, had some nice chats with the young men doing their missionary work. Even read some of the Book of Mormon. Thinking of buying the musical recordings (though I’m told that isn’t really from the mormon church). Mormon’s seem to be regular people. Just as nice as the catholics I grew up with. They probably wouldn’t be guzzling beer in the beer garden at the carnival but a few might.

They have some odd customs and beliefs.. John Smith found some golden books in his back yard that no one saw in Pennsylvannia which became a new testament. They can retro-actively re/baptize the dead so that they may go to heaven, even the person was Jewish upon dying. I suppose I could go on about this list. My catholic friends always had the same conversations, “So this Pope is like next best thing to God?” “Why do you have to pray to a saint to talk to God?” “You really believe you are drinking Christ’s blood? That’s gross.”

With all this weirdness I could say that these folks were still nice, normal people. Any many times I would call them my friends.

But somewhere along the way this religion stuff got too important…

Being a church worker and involved in church for the greater portion of my conscious life I would never say church isn’t important. But there is a point where the doctrine of our religion has become a mountain of judgment for those seeking to serve our greater good.

My observations come along as such.

  1. The church gave up its social influence by giving over the mandates of caring for the poor, vulnerable, and needy of our society to the government. Whether it is a medicine program, a social service, a education program, or relief effort. We, as a church, can safely say that we outsourced this mission of our church to the government. To which, we probably do not have the imagination to get it back. Though some are imagining it and implementing it.
  2. Thus, the government became the place where social issues of taking care of humanity were now hashed out. No longer were our houses of faith, where we would come together in worship & as a family of believers, the place to sort what God wanted for our community and our church to be about. Our brand became less about what we did and more about a history of our titles and names. The politics of our culture were not a place where we extended grace and love (as ideally done in the church) but more a place where we put together way to ‘win’ something.
  3. Our prevailing economy of consumption feeds into our mindset that IT IS, all about me. My thoughts and needs are primary (more than just Mazlows base of hierarchy of needs) and who gives what is really needed and what is really achievable. We speak and act in an economy of consumption, why else would you have a “marketing campaign” to tell you that a group of people is ‘just like you.’ They want you, they need you, to digest and accept that message. We should just know that mormons, in most cases there are always crazies in every faith expression, are just like you and me.

So, fueled with an economy, and generation, of ‘me first’ and having given over the mission of the church to the government in more ways than we care to admit. We make a wrong assumption that someones religious expression has a huge effect on the running of the government.

Or…

Those of us who know the mormon church know that they actual have held onto their mission as a church and not outsourced it to the government (at least not as much as the rest of our faith community). They have their own health care system to take care of its members. They do their own disaster relief programs. They have their own parenting and child education systems within their faith traditions. They expect a certain amount of sacrifice of time and energy towards these entities (their youth ministry programs are intensive and led by parents and other leaders, not outsourced to church staff). Sacrifice, that isn’t convenient isn’t part of our vocabulary in my protestant world. Giving into a greater good, or sharing the resources with a community gets called “socialism” but yet it is a part of the start of the church in Acts 2.

insert Christian joke here…

I am constantly amazed by the various methods of Christian consumptive goods that are generated in the name of “spreading the word.” Back in the day there was Bibleman, who as it turned out, was ‘Buddy‘ from ‘Charles in Charge.’

Now we get another superhero, “Captain Salvation,” to help us know Christ more and build God’s Kingdom. Needless to say I’ve got issues with this type of:

theology

  • that someone other that Christ helps bring about God’s Kingdom
  • Captain is military term, wasn’t Christ killed essentially by military use
  • an external superhero, that whole idol concept & all

promotion of consumption

  • something quite counter to Christ’s message

not to mention good taste

now, far be it from me to suggest people not use their gifts and talents for the good of building up the Kingdom of God, but not all ideas are usable in building up the Kingdom of God..

Freaks Geeks Cool Kids & American Consumption

This post originally written on YouthWorker Movement

I will never forget this one day at youth, I pulled out my reasonably new cell phone that was all cool with a horizontal flip technology and enhanced screen, and one of the teens spouted out “Oh My Gosh! How old is that?” Now truth be told it wasn’t more than 6 months old, but it seemed that the day after I bought it the new improved version (way slicker than mine) went onto the market with a ton of advertising. So before I put in my wife’s phone number it seems my phone was outdated.

Up to that point & certainly since I’ve been fascinated with what I call the “ill” of our nation. Consumption.. and specifically how it affects our youth & young adults. Was totally into thinking like Branded & Story of Stuff, so it was not a real stretch to draw towards a title of “Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption.”

This is not a ministry book in intent, but the lessons drawn from its research are totally applicable into today’s youth ministries. Teenagers behaviors exhibited in how they treat others and place themselves into levels is totally ingrained in them & plays out in our youth communities (not to mention likely in our ‘big’ church environments).

As a sociology research piece it has a lot of dry reading, footnotes & research references are not my favorites to continually read through. The nature of the reading is not captivating as one might find some fictional writings. But, in between these pieces there is a ton of great insight into teens motivations to their behaviors. If you are wanting a break & challenge from the normal ministry book, this is a good choice to make.

If you do think of purchasing, go for a used version, or do like I did, get the Kindle or other electronic format. The price is always the big pain in purchasing research based writings.