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On Christianity and Marketing

Christianity is an organization largely founded on well-developed principles of marketing. For any new organization, in any field or industry, there is always going to be a steep competition curve when trying to carve out a sustainable, expandable (read prolific) market-share. This process relies on well crafted advertizing, and an equally well defined concept of the target demographic. The best form of advertizing is word of mouth, and the most vulnerable demographic are the poor, the disenfranchised, and the optimistic. While many well-regarded and worthy scholars caution against judgments and interpretations of ancient events by modern standards, the sacrifice of perspective is at times unwarranted.

To say that the behavior of early Christianity resembles 21st century multi-level-marketing is indeed inaccurate, but not because of any inherent difference in function, but rather because the syntax of the statement neglects a more adequate point of view; the statement should read "Modern multi-level-marketing schemes have their roots in the strategies employed by early (and subsequent generations of) Christians.

Before they were "Christians," they were an apocalyptic sect of Jews, who, because of the recent encroachment of the Roman Empire, believed (rightly in a sense) that the world they knew was about to end, and that someone was going to have to come along to make the neccessary changes in culture and doctrine if the organization was going to survive the coming forces of change. History is perhaps not wrong, but merely short-sighted, in the assertion that this group eagerly awaited the messiah. It is possible that a more accurate view is that these people needed a messiah. Here is where it may be useful to borrow a few 21st century ideas to make sense of how such a wild demand could be met. The first element of any advertizing strategy is always the product testing phase. This is where John the Baptist takes the scene. His role (through the modern lens) is to test the market for favorable conditions.

According to the fourth Gospel in the New Testament, John's (the Baptist) position is clearly distinguished from Jesus. This is best understood from the advertizing point of view. "He was not that light, but came to bear witness of that light."(John 1:8) If John (TB) had spoken of such a man to an audience that showed no interest or expressed hostility, then there would be little incentive (and perhaps a great deal of real danger) to present Jesus to such a crowd. On the other hand, if a potential audience showed interest, or better, enthusiasm, for such a character, then a well planned and choreographed presentation would stand less chance of going to waste (or rendering unfavorable consequences).

So in a sense, John the Baptist was sort of like a filter. Because John (the Gospel writer) writes that John the Baptist also comes from God, it is important to distinguish that he wasn't the headlining act in the show. This distinction is also important, because John (TB) would not have had defend his claims of having witnessed miraculous ability in someone else as rigorously as if he had made the claims for himself. Essentially, John the Baptist was a fluff artist, the warm-up guy.

Because the obvious purpose of John's gospel is to present Jesus as the flesh-and-blood embodiment of all divine law, it is important that scholars and historians remember not to exclude the possibility that neither John, nor any other character in the mythology for that matter, didn't actually believe that what he wrote was the literal truth. In fact, there is no noble aspect of any historical figure ever to occupy space in time that disqualifies these men from the realm of possibly dishonest intentions.

Sadly, this view is predestined to meet with profound opposition from well-established institutions, culturally adapted to rigidly reject challenges to equally well-established "truths." However, when one juxtaposes the wealth and power accumulated by the Catholic church alongside the Messiah's message: "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages..."(John 4:36,37) and "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men"(Matt 4:19) and "...cast a hook, and take up the first fish that cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money..."(Matt 17:27) one must conclude that dismissing the parallels between the first stages of the Christian church and the excitable recruit-hungry crowd at a Cut-Co sales convention, on the basis of anachronism, is to overlook some extremely old and consistent aspects of human nature: the fear of death, the vulnerability to the promise of hope, the need for recognition and opportunity, and the sense of confidence that follows acceptance, to name a few.

To accept these human qualities as the premiere aphrodisiac to the pushy salesman in the 21st century, but not to acknowledge the possibility that these same qualities may have been exploited by the most powerful organization in history since the very first days of its conception, and are subsequently still the basis of Catholic (or more generally, Christian) continuity, is to approach history with a biased agenda that may only serve to perpetuate not only a distorted view of the subject, but also of the reality of religious influence upon culture in present times.

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