Thursday, March 11, 2010

To Market Or Not To Market The Faith

Living in a capitalistic system, we should not be surprised that we fall into temptations that commercialize the Church, a writer argues in this month's Kyeong Hyang Catholic Magazine. A need to build churches, to evangelize, and to help the poor requires money, and the more skillfully we manipulate the economic system the more money will be available for spreading our message. However, there are unfortunate consequences, the writer makes clear. The logic of faith and the logic of commerce, although very different, tend to come together in the lives of many Christians, with the commercial interests becoming more important.

A young theologian, William Cavanaugh, sees this dilemma in a positive light. Production and selling when done cooperatively can be a way of following Gospel thinking. One example can be cited to illustrate how this cooperation has worked to resolve a problem here in Korea. Those looking for more and cheaper organic foods have been put in touch with organic farmers. This direct contact has led to agreements between producer and consumer avoiding the big companies and problems with the market.

The need to build churches, to develop places of prayer, to evangelize, to help the poor requires money and to achieve our goal, we go to the principles of the market.
However, the writer insists that this does have an effect on the way we live as Christians. We try to increase our numbers by using the consumer principles of the capitalistic system. We have a product that is better than the competition, and we try to sell it to the consumer. Brand names are very important in the commercial world, and we have a brand that we want to sell on the open market. Catholics have two stars, Mother Theresa and Cardinal Stephen Kim, and we try to use them in moving the consumers to take notice. A problem that inevitably arises with this way of marketing is that we are working with externals and not with what is important. The capitalistic system tends to turn everything into a sales figure and everyone into a share of the market statistic. Instead of working on the message we become absorbed on how to sell what we have to give.

Our world has been described using many metaphors. One of the most accurate and useful comes from Cavanaugh. We live, he says, "at the intersection of two stories about the world: the Eucharist and the market." The stories mostly clash though the plot lines are similar--desire for "the good." Whether a temporal or a lasting good becomes the focus of our lives will depend on the choices we make each day. Choices that will be guided by either an ever-changing market economy or the unchanging truth of the Eucharist.

The Capitalistic system swallows everything up within itself. Even though it is very successful in doing what it is meant to do it is not the message that we have been given. To be salt and light are we not required to live in another way?

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