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Buying What Evangelicals Are Selling

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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 . . .

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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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Astreja

    Yup, they’re pretentious and pushy twits, trying to foist a high-maintenance, low-utility, time-intensive and overpriced piece of junk on us.

    We need Yelp reviews for bad ideas. 😀

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Oh boy. My friend was a member of the Way, and they actually believe that with enough prayer and faith, they don’t have to die. Not that this hasn’t stopped their leaders from dying. But it’s not the fault of the belief, but of the faithful person who did NOT HAVE ENOUGH FAITH.

    I like this “…read every word in the owner’s manual 666 times” and am waiting for a fundie to come along and get annoyed. Well done.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    There are those of us whose families bought us the Super Mega Deluxe package (church several days a week plus Christian school and Christian camps) and even then it didn’t work for us.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    666 times? You need to go for 667.

    Seriously, though, can you imagine any other business advertising, or conducting its sales and customer service, in the ways Bruce describes? Such an enterprise would be shut down, and its executives could be fined or imprisoned. Or, it might die off, as customers realize that, not only are the products and services aren’t as advertised, they’re not necessary.

  5. Avatar
    Matilda

    This resonates so much with me, thanks Bruce for this post. Since the 1970s, I was heavily committed to child evangelism. We got converts, kids and teens through church clubs, camps, youth fellowships etc. But as the decades passed, we got fewer returns for our huge investment of time – and money – in such projects. I was deconverting when this blog and Captain Cassidy’s became a lifeline. She put it in a nutshell for me, saying, as you do, that no one wants the product x-tians are selling any more. In business terms, if a product is launched and it doesn’t sell, it’s withdrawn or new advertising strategies tried. Unlike fundy selling of jesus, they just go on, same old, same old totally-irrelevant-you-must-be-born-again. And sign up to their church. Folks aren’t buying into that any more like they once were. Few can overlook the hypocrisy, bigotry, false claims and lies of many prominent x-tians. Not to mention abuse scandals that are two a penny in religions and out in the open now.

  6. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Fear is the great selling method isn’t it. Like for alarm kits and sensor lights,and Ring doorbell cameras. It’s not anything positive,since there’s so little of THAT. The Blab- N- Grab doctrine became popular when fear of Hell wasn’t producing enough. All these crazy systems,is it any wonder that so many won’t go near churches anymore ?? I remember 1976 as the year Blab- really took off, as a counterweight to legalism like IFB and the Pentecostal sects. Most failed with Blab-, since it didn’t work out. The preachers of Blab- made oodles of money, since donations from all over the West was their source ! You were always told lack of faith was why no results when getting prayer or sending money.. It made more sense to have one’s beliefs as just personal, and leaving churches out of it.

  7. Avatar
    Troy

    The Churchitary Industrial complex reminds me of the ubiquity of the Chinese restaurant. Every town has one or two, they are somewhat distinct but somehow all the same. There’s actually more Chinese restaurants in the United States than McDonald’s restaurants. It’s interesting to see how mom-and-pop (pastor and pastor’s wife?) churches are starting to get pushed out by the megachurch juggernaut. Of course where the real money is of course is television. Pat Robertson really cleaned up by being an early adopter of the air waves…and the “family channel” and its descendants will have to show his right wing “700 club” in perpetuity. (and of course 700 club itself refers to donors!). Of course watching millionaire clerics beg for cash is fantastic fun, but sad that it actually works.

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Bruce Gerencser