Oct 22

Holy brand extension!

October 22 - Pope-Benedict-XVI How about Pope Benedict XVI's bold and brash end run on the Anglican Church and the archbishop of Canterbury? In case you missed it, the Pope just made a special offer to Anglicans who had grown disaffected with that church's decidedly liberal stance on female priests and openly gay bishops by extending membership in the one, true Church (as the nuns used to like to say).

From a brand extension perspective, the Pope made a very cagey move. Church membership is rapidly eroding, especially in First World countries. So, deciding that the best defense is a good offense, Pope Benedict tries to take market share away from a weaker sibling: the Anglican church. Talk about Machiavellian!

This was front page news in the U.S. However, RepMan Freelance Correspondent Carl "Union Jack" Foster says it barely caused a ripple across the pond. "In a country where the Head of the Church of England is also the Head of State, Britain is a decidedly non-religious place. Coverage of the Pope's move has been reported but it isn't riding high. Look at the homepages of the major newspaper websites and you won't find the story. I presume stories about swine flu vaccinations, postal strikes and celebrity fashion slips are more newsworthy because they got more clicks."

Blasé Brits aside, I find the Pope's move disturbing from a number of image and reputation standpoints:

– By inviting the far right wing conservative branch of the Anglican Church to join the RCC, he has, de facto, moved the latter's philosophy even further right.
– By becoming ever more conservative, the Church is being anything but 'Catholic' and, rather, re-positioning itself in a neo-conservative box that will surely hamper future recruiting efforts for priests, nuns and, of course, congregants.

Brand building depends upon authenticity and transparency. The Church's original mission embraced piety, humility and an openness to all views and perspectives. Clearly, something went awry along the way. In fact, I think Sarah Silverman's recent suggestion that the Pope sell the Vatican and end world hunger with the proceeds makes more sense than the Anglican brand extension (Note: This video contains R-rated material).

Having laid siege to disaffected Anglicans, what religion is next in Pope Benedict's brand extension campaign? Today Anglicans. Tomorrow the world!

Jul 28

May 21, 2011: Are you ready?

July 28 - harold_camping-2011 I was surfing through Comcast's cavalcade of countless channels the other day when I happened upon Harold Camping and his Family Radio Network.

Oh boy. The guy stopped me in my tracks. Harold Camping is a televangelist with a terrible twist.

Unlike his peers, Harold Camping does not pack a positive punch. Camping is no Joel Osteen with a set of pearly whites to go along with his message of do good and make money in this lifetime. No sir. No way. Not this televangelist. He doesn't have the time.

That's because 88-year-old Harold Camping is laser-focused on the end of days. He's close to the end and he wants to make sure we know we're close to the end of our days as well.

In fact, Harold knows the exact date of his end, and ours: May 21, 2011. Yup, May 21, 2011. Camping's pieced together various Bible passages that, he says, pinpoint May 21, 2011, as the end of the world. He says 5-21-11 is the date when the 'Rapture' will begin.

If I heard him correctly, the Rapture is a period of 155 straight days of nasty, horrible and terrible things that will beset Planet Earth (think: locusts, floods, long-standing PR accounts going up for review, etc.).

Happily, though, Brother Camping and his devoted followers will survive. Nay, thrive. And, when the 155 days are over, Brother Camping & Co. will ascend to Heaven and all the good things that go with it (Christianity's version of Islam's 73 virgins?).

News flash: Brother Camping is the latest in a long line of prophets, fakirs and whatnots who have predicted the end of days. Sane people ignore them. But, the vulnerable do not. And therein lies the issue. Far too many people buy into the end of days mythology and end up selling their worldly possessions (Think: Jonestown, Waco and others). Real people with real problems get badly hurt when a Brother Camping decides it's time to cash in his (and others') chips.

And what happens when the end of days doesn't happen? Well, the Brother Campings of the world just end up blaming others for the apocalypse that wasn't. And the devoted find a new prophet with a new dire prediction.

It's so sad and, in some individual cases, apocalyptic. And, from an image and reputation standpoint, just further tarnishes the overall image and reputation of organized religion.

Jan 15

The Root of All Evil

The old aphorism notwithstanding, money is not the root of all evil. In my mind, it's organized religion.

Just take a look around us: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the border tensions between India and Pakistan, the Israeli invasion of Gaza. It goes on and on. One could argue these conflicts are also about money, land and power. And, they'd be right. But, at its core, the root cause of the world's problems is organized religion.

Evangelical Christians think it's their way or the highway. Ditto for fundamental Islamic militants, Orthodox Jews, Scientologists, Mormons, etc. You name the religious group and they'll tell you not only why their way is the only way, they'll often justify why their far right wing contingents are justified in undermining, if not destroying, anyone who disagrees.

Ziggy Marley explains it very well in "In the Name of God." So, too, do Crosby, StillsMaher
and Nash in "Cathedral." But, it was Bill Maher that got me thinking about religion with his excellent documentary, "Religiulous". If you haven't seen it, do so. In fact, I'd suggest it's worth seeing if you're an avowed atheist or proselytizing protestant. It raises questions we all need to ponder. Especially now.

I often wonder how the leaders of these radical religious fundamentalist groups rationalize their killing in the name of God, Allah or whomever. Whatever became of live and let live?