To see whether more subtle packaging cues are influencing consumers, David Hammond and Carla Parkinson at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, created fictitious cigarette packets bearing words now commonly used on real packets, such as "smooth" or "silver". When shoppers in Ontario were asked to select the healthiest brands, they invariably picked those with light-coloured packaging or bearing words subliminally suggestive of good health
All of which has me wondering, what if the government were to call for the Churches to stamp out their subliminal advertising? After all - just like tobacco, Scripture suggests that there is no such thing as a 'good' sin, and that the wages of sin is death. Similarly there is only one salvation, so the bottom line is that the eternal life on offer in one Church is no different or any more effective than it is in any other - regardless of how the Churches brand themselves. One we realize this, we realize just how much we have already bought into the subliminal marketplace..
Consider for example, the recent branding of Church as either 'fresh' or 'pioneering'... Or the number of Church Web-Sites which use the words 'Powerful', 'Dynamic', 'Interactive' in their self-description.
Personally I really like the idea of Church Lite.. and I confess I would be far more likely to attend a Church which had the courage to brand itself as Questioning rather than Confident. The gospel constantly ties me in knots with its wonderfully perplexing simplicity.
What I can't ignore however, is the fact that the Church has been using subliminal advertising. In some instances it has deliberately preyed on the fear and weaknesses of humanity - the way-side pulpit notices which do more to promote a knowledge of hell than of heaven, the hell-fire and damnation sermons, the long black robes of the clerics, the austere buildings and long long walks to the altar.. In other instances it has preyed on the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation by deliberately choosing to associate itself with the 'American Dream' image of modern living and respectability.
Is all this because we are actually scared that if we tell the gospel as it really is that the Church will have no takers? After all - who would go to a Church to learn that Jesus is the way - not the priest or the Church, that the life that is on offer is God's to give, not the Church's to command or dictate and above all - that the truth is, God created us and called us GOOD - and that is why God deems us worth saving. So worth saving in fact, that God came himself to tell us - repeatedly ' your sins are forgiven - have no fear'
I would - not least because it would be a chance to undo some of the damage of the years of negative subliminal marketing of some of the Churches I attended as a Child which stunted my growth as a child of God by repeatedly telling me how 'bad' I was, how 'sinful' and how 'sick'.