Evangelicalism is a product that must be sold on the market of ideas. Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and garden-variety church members are the salespeople and the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world are the prospective customers. Within the Evangelical mall, there are all sorts of stores (churches), each selling their “unique” brand of the one true faith. Much like prostitutes advertising their wares in front of brothels, Evangelicals advertise why their store is the best one in town. It is up to the Philistines of the world to decide which, if any, Evangelical sect or church is for them.
In our consumer-oriented world, we know there is a big difference between product advertisement and the actual product itself. All of us, at one time or another, have bought a product based on its advertising claims, only to get it home and find out that the product does not deliver as advertised.
What does Evangelicalism advertise to the world? Salvation. Forgiveness of sins. Eternal life. Meaning. Purpose. Joy. Community. Most of all, Evangelicalism offers transformation. New life in Christ, old things are passed away and all things become new.
Evangelicalism creates a “need” by telling prospective customers that they are sinful, broken, and alienated from the company’s CEO. They also create a “solution” by selling the only product that will fix the “need” — salvation. Each store has its own version of salvation, but the goal is one and the same for all: salvation and new life in Christ.
If customers will buy what Evangelicals are selling, the advertising says that they will be granted a lifetime warranty that extends beyond the grave. Further, all sorts of promises are made as far as product performance is concerned. Yet, buried deep within the terms of service that says “your mileage may vary.” Extra costs and conditions apply: weekly church attendance, tithing, obedience to an ancient religious text, conformity to church standards, rules, and regulations, and giving your time, talent, and money to the church.
Most of the people who read this blog have bought what Evangelicals are selling, yet somewhere in the life of the product, we determined that it was not delivering as promised. Many of us returned the product to its seller, never to buy another one again. When asked by customer service why we returned the product, we told them about how God/Christianity/Church was not as advertised. We found that the product looked nice and people really admired it, but when put to use, it failed. Evangelical salespeople talked a great line, but when it came time for Jesus and the church to deliver, they failed miserably. Some of us went looking for different brands and models, sure that there was a better product out there for us if we just looked for it. Some of the rest of us decided that no “better” product was to be had, so we donated it to Goodwill or threw it in the trash.
Evangelical salespeople continue to pester us. When told of the problems we had with their product, we are told that we shopped at the wrong store, bought the wrong model, or didn’t follow the directions. The failure of the product is always our fault. If only we had bought the blue one instead of the yellow one or shopped at John Calvin’s instead of Jacob Arminius’ store, we would still be happy, satisfied customers. If only we had carefully read every word in the owner’s manual 666 times and spent hours each day pondering its words, we would still be Christians. If only we had fasted and prayed without ceasing. If only we had committed our whole hearts, souls, and minds to the one true CEO.
If only . . .
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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