Reverse Psychology from the Church?

Posted by on November 17, 2009 in Thoughts | 17 comments

… or “The changing face of Christianity?”

I saw this billboard on the side of a Presbyterian Church I pass everyday on my way to work.

Christian Billboard on Scotchmer Street in Clifton Hill

Christian Billboard on Scotchmer Street in Clifton Hill

It was created by a group called Outreach Media who describe themselves as existing “to promote the Christian Gospel through various media channels and to assist churches and Christian groups to raise the profile of the Christian message.”

If you visit the website, you can view an archive of all the billboards they have created recently. Some of it is really quite clever and seems to engage the public on a level of popular culture rather than the more common “holier than thou” attitude the Church has in general.

What’s even more interesting is, if you click on “March” in the archives, you are delivered to a website titled God Hates Religion, which, believe it or not, is an anti-religion/pro-God pro-Jesus website which derides religion as a bad thing.

What do you think of this alternate tactic? Is it a real attempt to engage with the youth of today, or a thin veil to seem cool on the surface but underneath remain the same? Please have a look through these links/archives and let me know what you think.

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17 Comments

  1. Outreach Media is running a pretty brilliant advertising campaign, truth be told. Just looking through their archives, they’ve got a nice balance of the typically preachy (Oct. 09), the funny (Apr. 09), the sappy/inspiring (June 09), and the controversial (Mar. 09).

    This is the approach religions are going to have to take to get new blood in and retain their dwindling masses. Most of us aren’t so masochistic that the fire-and-brimstone approach does anything for us. Nobody wants to be yelled at about eternal damnation because of who they fuck or when they work.

    And I think the “God Hates Religion” thing is especially poignant, in conjunction with the Nov. 09 poster. Outreach clearly understands that many people’s biggest issue with religion is the institution and the practitioners. Putting a message out there that promotes a personal decentralized spirituality is going to resonate a lot more than telling everyone they need to be at church every week to perform archaic rituals.

    I’m not saying any of this worked on me, just that from a proselytization standpoint it’s a strong effort. Whatever Outreach Media’s agenda is, they seem to have a much stronger understanding of the general opinion of faith and religion than their peers.

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    • Thanks for your comments Courtney. The whole thing did strike me as somewhat odd, but a wise marketing move for the club to update their image. I’m sure this is not all churches or sects of Christianity that are subscribing to this form of advertising to try and proselytise the young, the weak and the lost. I’m just surprised that they are advertising at all.

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  2. Christians are very skilled at finding new and improved ways of attracting followers to the flock. This is but another of those ways. For sure a broader, more reasoning approach (very 21st century) but ultimately it’s a recruitment campaign for Christianity…and Christianity IS a religion.

    They have a problem: no matter how they rework it, the message is the same – Jesus is the son of God who one day will return and take believers to heaven and cast non-believers and sinners into the fires of hell. With the more palatable and quite legitimate message of peace, love and compassion there still exists the underlying threat of retribution and damnation.

    If you take God out of Jesus’ message his words soar as beacons of light and hope in the humanitarian sense. Unfortunately St Paul turned him into God and the rest is history.

    Thx for bringing this to our attention, and for the links, Marty. – Wayne

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    • Hey Wayne thanks for stopping by! Yes it’s the threatening nature of the Christian teachings that really get to me too. The absurdist notion that the “magic-sky-daddy” could even care what an inconsequential being such as a human is beyond ridiculous. It’s a very self-centred approach to life, and seems to remove blame from the individual. If it’s not this life, but the next, that matters, then you can do whatever you like in this life and just beg forgiveness.

      I have too much to say on this topic for a simple reply, so I might save this part of my brain for a full blog post. Always good to hear from you!

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  3. I actually agree with the sentiment of the ad. Christians acting badly is a bad reason to reject Christianity, particularly when there are already excellent reasons to do so. Of course, Christians acting badly strongly implies that religion is no guarantor of good behavior (as if that were a good reason to believe anyway, which it is not of course).

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    • I think the sentiment of the ad shows that the peddlers of religion are aware that they are losing footing, especially in a secular and multicultural society such as we have here in Australia. It wouldn’t convince me if I was “looking for something” in my life.

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      • Oh, if only I could believe that were a permanent trend! Unfortunately, these things tend to by a bit cyclical. But there is a chance and I think we should take advantage of it for all it’s worth!

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  4. People have a view of christianty and instantly bundle it in with the catholic church, anti science and super conservatives. Its nothing like that, It’s not white robes, inherent opposition to science, wars, tradition or funny dances, it’s not bible bashing, sandstone buildings, or ignorance. It’s is beleif in God and that Jesus was his son. Simple, nothing more, nothing less.

    The reason for the for the marketing and the seemingly reverse psycology is that people that people who claim to be Christians go against the exact thing they claim to beleive in. Jesus and the church he started fought and died trying to bring down religion with laws and unfounded tradition, he avoided religious people and was far from conservative. 

    Modern Churches make a mockery of it, they haven’t learnt from their mistakes and in turn make real Christians look ignorant, and turn people away from even giving a second of thought.

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    • Thank you for stopping by Luke, and leaving your comment. All are welcome here!

      I agree Religion and Church are 2 different things, but unfortunately you cannot have church without religion, and many religious identify themselves BY their church.

      It is no wonder that this is the perception of religions from the outside. In the USA there’s a much bigger emphasis on “fire and brimstone” aspects of the Bible than here, but we do still have it.

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  5. Who can fathom the religious mind?

    This proves religious organizations market themselves looking for followers. Deep down they know that if you want to “believe” in a “higher power” you do not need them. Any religious person can pray without the need for a church, and without the need for shedding their dollars and cents to these institutions.

    They’re like a club. And they market themselves to attract “members”, and they shove their beliefs and doctrines up your ass, and say that if you do not follow them you will go to hell.

    All I know is, I’d rather go to hell than go to heaven with people like that. Thank dog all that happens is that we become dirt.

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    • Hi Miguel, I appreciate you taking the time to comment here.

      Yes, different “sects” of christianity are like clubs with their own set of rules and regulations, as well as their own interpretations of the information in their scriptures. It’s interesting that they are actively recruiting numbers to this church rather than using the “old” way, which was for the most part, to be born “into” the church.

      Maybe the end really is coming?

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  6. I know lots of Christians who are ashamed of other people who call themselves Christians. In fact, I don’t think I am *friends* with any that aren’t. How could you not be? The ones that make the news unfortunately aren’t doing so for deeds of goodness and light.

    I think something like this could be an effective ad campaign, if there was proper pull-through. The sponsor or sect behind it would have to show people how they were different; one billboard (or even a couple) does not a change in philosophy make.

    Personally for me it’s all nonsense anyway though. I suppose if one were Christian it could help you sleep at night (knowing that you were “a good Christian” instead of a “crazy Christian”). I sleep better knowing that I put my faith and trust in what has proven again and again to be real and true… Which doesn’t include religion.

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    • It’s interesting that people can believe basically the same thing as each other then in-fight about the semantics of it. Most non-theistic people tend to agree on that is real and not real, but maybe it’s the lack of organisation as a group that makes us stronger? Maybe it’s the rogue spirit in us that makes us all so scary?

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  7. Quite clearly there is an element of poorly behaved Christians putting people on a path away from religion (I’ve few doubts it was a factor, if not a particularly significant one) in my own deconversion as I disliked the isolationist stance of my wannabe mentors. I agree with some of your respondents that if religion is to survive as anything more than a niche market it will have to engage youth (in particular) on a new level … part of me admires their approach (it will work) but mostly I just want to stop them because they are still spreading the usual religious misinformation.

    Kyuuketsuki, AngryAtheism.Org

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  8. it is somewhat strange although I’d suggest the google ads are stranger but as you say, there still are the sheep and there still are the goats or not

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  9. I know a lot of people that have jumped on the “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship” bandwagon. It’s a good thing, but it’s also very ironic. Given enough time, the alternative view goes mainstream and becomes the system again. Opposing tradition only works until your opposition is the new tradition. Then what are you going to do?

    To address your question, I believe it’s a perfectly legitimate approach, but soon everyone will have the t-shirt and the bracelet, and the “buzz” will wear off.

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  10. Is it just me or is the “God Hates Religion” site a little exclusionary?
    Two Muslim pictures, one Jewish, one Hindu, one overtly Catholic.
    Why not a picture of a Mega-church congregation with arms raised to the heavens? Why not a choir clapping and singing?
    Why is the only Christian photo an idol of the Virgin Mary?

    Maybe I am reading a little too much into this, but they seem to be keeping up the “every one else is wrong” line while covertly dissociating themselves from “Religion”.

    Can I just say “guess what guys? You suck too.”

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  1. Thankfully, I can think for myself « Atheist Climber - [...] a lot of the propaganda coming from Outreach Media (see previous post) the message is simple. But I wonder, …

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