When it comes to selling, the seven deadlies are a ‘hell’ of a lot sexier than goodness.
November 11, 2009
“Why is goodness so gosh-darned boring?”
In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry God decides to hire an advertising agency to market Heaven. Frustrated by how few converts organized religion is bringing in, She (that’s right, She) reasons a modern advertising agency might capture the imaginations of young people better than current theological tropes. If the bible (and similar texts) serves as advertising copy for goodness then, God observes correctly, few are bothering to read it, let alone be motivated. Nobody reads body copy anyway, right?
One of the things that prompted me to write the book was the poignancy of God’s dilemma: that no one is paying much attention to goodness. A big question then is how come goodness is so darn boring?
It’s easy to fault ancient rhetoric. After all what’s more archaic than scripture? By definition it’s old. In the age of instant gratification and Twitter how can old-fashioned goodness possibly compete? It can’t and never could.
The Devil has always been a better showman than God. Even now, popular culture is rife with evil characters, from Twilight’s sexy vampires to legions of vapid, self-serving reality stars wallowing in their own depravity. Even the good guys need a dark side in order for us to identify with them. House is a doctor but he’s self-centered to the extreme and a drug addict! Indeed, the Seven Deadly Sins are pretty much standard fare these days. Lord knows we play fast and loose with them in Advertising. “We make you want what you don’t need,” reads the header to my blog. That’s envy, gluttony, lust, greed, pride and sloth. We’re only missing Wrath!
But why are God and Heaven uninteresting to us? How come they can’t compete with evil’s myriad titillations? Why does goodness come off the bus sleeping?
Already my kids dislike church. They were bored from day one. Is this the best way to ignite their tiny, vulnerable flames of spirituality -via hot air? Must religion be dull, uninviting and, er, preachy?
I suppose snake handlers bring excitement to their message. Certain Baptist groups rattle the rafters with hymns of joy. I love that Bono sings about God versus getting laid. But by and large mainstream religion is duller than a bag of hammers. When it is exciting it is usually violent. Sister Mary is going to thrash you! You’re gonna burn in Hell! Yikes. My children’s illustrated copy of the Old Testament manages to be both dull and terrifying. So much is wrong with this picture…
The average person is neither beast nor saint. If on balance, we are neutral then it stands to reason we can be motivated in either direction. So why has evil always been seductive and goodness not?