10.26.2005

From Papal Cocaine Wine to God Decaf to eCollection Plates:
Milking the Divine Cash Cow



The Selling of Jesus: Mixing of Religion, Commerce Grows

from The New York Times

Starbucks coffee cups will soon be emblazoned with a religious quotation from Rick Warren, the best-selling author and pastor, which includes the line, "You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense."

Meanwhile, hipster havens like Urban Outfitters have made a mint selling T-shirts declaring "Jesus Is My Homeboy." Alaska Airlines distributes cards quoting Bible verses, and at least 100 cities have phone directories for Christian businesses.

Clearly, business owners have sensed a market opportunity. The question is whether it's a mutually beneficial relationship.

"The way in which religion allows itself to be reshaped by the larger culture, including markets, allows it to prosper and do well, but it also clearly changes its core values," said Charles Ess, a religion professor at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. "The oldest Christians sold all their goods and shared them in common. They didn't shop and launch marketing campaigns."

Then again, Christianity seems to have done quite well by mixing worship and commerce. "Religion is like yeast in dough," said Michael Novak, a theologian at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's in every part of life, so for it to show up everywhere is only natural - in commerce, politics, sports, labor unions and so on and so forth."

Not that the intermingling of faith and commerce is anything new. Christians have always used all means and venues to spread the gospel. "Jesus taught in the temple and the marketplace," said Warren, the author of the blockbuster The Purpose Driven Life.

Western history is rich with examples of the church-commerce concoction. In the 1800s, the image of Pope Leo XIII appeared on posters for Vin Mariani, a wine with cocaine and a precursor to Coca-Cola. The pope honored the drink with a medal to show his appreciation for its effervescence.

In the England of the Industrial Revolution, Methodism and Wedgwood pottery spread from the same kiln. John Wesley and Josiah Wedgwood were friends and fellow Christians who joined forces in what might be described as cross-platform marketing.

"Wedgwood built its global pottery industry by selling little statuettes of John Wesley and the other superstar preachers of the day," said Philip Jenkins author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. "British capitalism was built on religious marketing - well, maybe."

In the early days of the United States, businesses, for the most part, did not use religion to sell products. They lacked the technology for mass production, and the Puritan influence helped forge an opposition to showiness or material embellishment.

According to Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel-winning economist at the University of Chicago, the public largely assumed that prominent businessmen were devout.


Putting Faith in the Internet

from LTVNews

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie announced today that it has partnered with a new internet provider, DeoWeb Internet, to launch an internet service for Catholics that will provide long-term funding to Catholic parishes.

The new internet service provider enables subscribers to give a donation to a parish or the diocese with their monthly fee, without costing them more money. Subscribers will receive high-speed and dial-up internet service comparable to other major providers. In addition, they will also receive a tax deductible receipt for the portion of their bill donated to their parish.

"Parishes, like many charitable organizations today face major challenges in raising additional funds" said Fr. Pat Woods, pastor of St. Kevin Parish and Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministries. "By encouraging parishioners to subscribe to the DeoWeb Internet service, our parish will receive much needed resources without costing our members additional money."

DeoWeb will enable subscribers to donate at least $5 per month to their
parish on high-speed internet plans and $3 per month on dial-up plans. The new internet service also promises full technical support comparable to the major internet suppliers. Future plans call for expansion across North America in other dioceses, as well as a similar offering for non-Catholic churches.

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