Church of the Return on Investment

Takes a lot for a piece of junk mail to catch my eye. But this one definitely snagged it.

“A surprisingly non-creepy church…where the welcome mat is miles wide.” (Italics in original.)


junkmailMy double-take saved the square card from the wastebasket. Addressed to “Residential Customer,” the card was from a local church, ostensibly Christian, but it was hard to tell. The words “Christ” and “Christian” are nowhere to be found; “God” appears once. The church’s name is not in the two paragraphs of text on one side, nor in the photo or the legend on the other. The church’s name appears as a single word combining a proper name and the word “church” in all lowercase in the return address block; versions of it, all but one without the word “church,” make up the typical social media handles listed along the bottom edge of one side. On the photo side, we see a bright, soft-focus image of a woman from behind, going through a doorway. The legend reads, “Welcome Home. Our doors aren’t just open; they’re off the hinges.” The church meets in a private school (unrelated to the church), according to a map in one corner of the other side.

Something has always struck me as odd about hospitals and churches advertising, although they certainly have the right. And a new church, if that’s what this is, wants to gather members and get a good start. O.K.; fine. But to me, if it’s not a true public service announcement, all ads smack of commerce, of money and wanting to get you to spend it. Also fine. Combine the two, though, and I get a dissonance in my head. Too much like marketing. I thought Jesus expelled the moneychangers from the temple. However, I can be picky about things. Best to judge this question against myself and let it go.

More disturbing, though, were the questions raised by the tagline promising non-creepiness. Frankly, I was aghast. We have all met people whose religious zeal may have seemed annoying or excessive. But who are we to tell people how to evangelize? Creepy? Is that what we’ve come to in the modern day? Is seeking and loving God now some kind of dividing line for social opprobrium? People who evangelize too enthusiastically for some tastes may make others uncomfortable, but for one church to take the position that such people are “creepy” is, to me, rather too judgmental no matter what religion you follow. Or don’t.

And another thing: if you guys aren’t creepy, does that mean we all are? How can your welcome mat be miles wide if there’s a creepy meter by the door? Is there a TSA of creepy? If we’re going to quote Bible or Qu’ran or Gita verses by heart, do we have to seal them in a one-quart plastic soul and put them on the belt? Do we have to take off our sandals?

I’ll be the first to admit that atmosphere is very important to fulfilling worship. But to cast the prime attractant of your church in the same terms used to assure junior high girls that the weird kids won’t be at the dance…well, it’s not just missing the point. It’s essentially proving that all you can do is miss it.

The card’s reprieve from the wastebasket was over quickly.♦

© 2013 Adam Barr

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