Let's be honest for a brief moment: All successful religions use two things to entice would-be believers to embrace their brand of faith. The first marketing gimmick is magical novelties and parlor games, such as "raising people from the dead." This has always stuck me as a singularly misguided shopper-incentive. After all, what prudent person would risk embracing a god inconsiderate enough to rip you from the sublime comfort of Heaven simply so that He can show off to a pack of ignorant onlookers?

The second proven marketing gimmick is the promise of a world less dour than our own. I note with no surprise that throughout history, religions that foolishly choose to promise excruciating pain and embarrassment to believers after they die never manage to be embraced by all but a few mordant masochists. Savvy people shopping for a new faith shrewdly demand extravagant incentives from any group that courts their patronage. Of course, when one is making cold calls to people in first century Palestine, promising something better is all but impossible not to do. Just mention antiperspirant! To jaded American Christians, however, the pot must be sweetened somewhat. Therefore, Heaven is seemingly decorated by Carmela Soprano, sporting gaudy gold paved road and has everyone wearing excessive jewelry, such as crowns, before 5pm.

Just as no faith has prospered claiming that their god is so selflessly secure he requires nothing, no religion has flourished without promotional acumen attuned to the whims of the market. For example, when Galatian and Thessalonian focus groups were testing "very negative" about having their foreskins hacked off with crude instrumentation, the Apostle Paul quickly unveiled the "New and Improved" Christianity Version 1.1 This new version was rushed out to replace Version 1.0, which had only been introduced by Jesus several years earlier, but only caught on with a handful of disgruntled Jews looking for a way to annoy their parents. Paul's "free with a purchase" new version of the faith, with extra features, was more user-friendly, improving upon Jesus' prior version, as Jesus could not quite bring Himself to tell everyone to ignore His father's rather onerous and inexplicable laws from the beta version (the Old Testament). Paul, on the other hand, more mindful of the response-cards filled in by exiting congregations in Greece, told prospective converts: "Enjoy your foreskins – and pork all you want!" Regrettably, all for the want of proper emphasis, this extemporaneous entreaty led to a flurry of fornication.

Christianity has always been blessed with nimble marketing, able to shift campaigns to adapt to the vicissitudes of the both the spiritual and political marketplace. Once Adolf Hitler was able to draw upon centuries of Christian anti-Semitic and anti-homosexual inflammatory rhetoric to employ both clergy and congregation to exterminate both, it became impolitic to associate with someone who lost a war. Therefore, True Christians(tm) wisely distanced themselves from him by simply passing him off as "anti-Christian." (Yes, it was disingenuous and misleading, but so is Palmolive's claim to be anti-bacterial.)

It is not, or course, just enough to market your own faith as being desirable. It is often necessary to "go negative" over competing brands of faith to dissuade our demographic (superstitious people with money) from succumbing to incentives (a "thank you" note or basket of tropical fruit from Allah) and promotions (a tent full of nubile virgins) from competing faiths. For example, Catholic Mary-Worshipers in the Middle Ages stuck with their wildly successful "They Kill Your Children" campaign against Jews for several centuries before changing agencies.

Well, it is no wonder that we True Christians(tm) are furious with the Jews. After all, we inherited that wretchedly barbaric Old Testament from them! In contradistinction to our god (Jesus), their god (well, God) is, by His own admission, jealous and wrathful. He is also so utterly insecure that he is wont to smear people's faces with dung if they don't tell him how fabulous he is! (Malachi 2:3) Add to such vulgar and intemperate shenanigans, the Jewish God's penchant for killing whole villages of women and children (Hosea 13:16), you have yourself a marketing nightmare that requires agile spin!

As such, most True Christians(tm) have come up with the best way to get around such an irascible and lethal product: ignore Him. I call these wise people "Hallmark Greeting Card Christians." Instead of encouraging consumers of faith to actually read the Lord's bloody exploits in the Old Testament, they simply invoke a deity of their own making -- some warm fuzzy "God is Love" mascot who cries over not being able to answer your every greedy prayer and was apparently appropriated from a bottle of Snuggle fabric softener.

We have resorted to a similar campaign to repackage Islamic Fundamentalists. You see, modern Americans, of course, are more sophisticated consumers than 11th Century serfs, who could be convinced to give up their baby daughter's last piece of stale bread so that their local effeminate priest could finish his new silk vestment with an outré ermine sash. While can still "go negative" against foreign Muslims like we did in the Crusades – by killing them. This effective approach loses customers when incorporated into a domestic campaign. That is why, during the current religious war, we have been very careful not to come right out and say that Muslims are stupid and evil people who are going to Hell. Instead, even President Bush has gone out of his way to remind everyone that Muslims are charming, peaceful people. The fact that their rejection of the One True Lord entitles them to a one-way trip straight to Hell is known to all True Christians(tm) and is unspoken because, honestly, who wants to risk provoking a pack of Arabs with the tempers of purebred dogs?

The other rather sly message we have effected is that Islamic Fundamentalists have "perverted" God's wrathful message, rather than looking at how bloodthirsty the actual message is to begin with. This is smart: the less people actually read about how much the Lord delights in gruesome deaths in the Bible, the better. After all, Islamic Fundamentalists and Christian Fundamentalists are inspired by the same wrathful, angry god, but it is imprudent to point this out to people who can follow concepts to their logical conclusion. Besides, Christian Fundamentalists, have perverted nothing, as we are well aware of how wrathful God is, but we are content to kill in smaller numbers.

Just when we were patting ourselves on the back over convincing unsaved Americans that Islamic Fundamentalist fanatics, who believe they act for God in killing Americans (stock brokers), are substantively different from American Fundamentalist fanatics, who believe they act for God in killing Americans (abortionists), along comes Satan with the most clever ad campaign for the nonsensical since the Catholics claimed Mary died a virgin: Harry Potter.

Just like our current production of the Christian Crusades Part MLXIV in the Middle East, the war against Harry Potter will not be a battle won by outflanking every knobby-kneed camel with a sortie of F-16s. No, our skirmish against Harry Potter will be fought with the same weapon Christian religious fanatics in America are currently employing against non-Christian religious fanatics in the Middle East: slick propaganda. And never has Christ-hating witchcraft been peddled with such flourish and finesse than in the books and movies of unsaved Scottish harlot J. K. Rowling.

 

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