Mixed Signals: You Might as Well Abandon the Catholic Church

Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

I wanted to be mad at this Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) ad, which will soon be placed in the New York Times. It calls for Catholics to take action against the Catholic Church’s opposition to free-contraception-for-all. The action FFRF recommends? Quitting the church. Check it out:

When groups cry out against religion and church and call it all negative, I get a bit perturbed. Are there negative things inside the Catholic Church (and all churches)? Certainly. Broken actions come from broken people who form broken institutions — and last I checked, no person is perfect, including those who are anti-church/religion/God. Institutions of faith aren’t the sole purveyors of damaging actions. I’m guessing FFRF is not immune from humanity.

So FFRF’s position is flawed. But after analyzing the ad’s messaging, I found some logic — sad logic, but true logic nonetheless. Let me walk you through it.

Target Audience: Liberal and Nominal Catholics

Creative Strategy: Humor to break through marketplace noise / Persuasion to convince target of the Catholic Church’s irrelevancy and lack of authority

Call to Action: Leave the Catholic Church / Join FFRF

Unique Selling Position: There is a more welcoming home for you! (at FFRF)

What I find most interesting is how FFRF appeals to Liberal and Nominal Catholics. According to FFRF, this subgroup has already detached from the Catholic Church by ignoring its stance on contraceptive usage. FFRF points out the discrepancy between the subgroup’s actions and the Catholic Church’s stance, and it calls on the subgroup to reconcile the difference by matching their everyday walk with their Sunday actions. That is, Liberal and Nominal Catholics have already quit their church in terms of their personal everyday decisions, so they should also quit attending on Sundays.

Interesting, eh? So often in Christian circles we speak of matching our Sunday theology to our everyday actions. FFRF is challenging Catholics to match their everyday beliefs to their Sunday actions by no longer attending Catholic Church.

It’s sort of hard to oppose a call for greater sincerity.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • jon

    We oppose it because it is not based on Christ’s Truth not on sincerity. One can be sincerely wrong and do great evil. This is why we say God is Good.

    Only God understands eternity and the consequences of actions and through Hid pure Love for us is the Author of Good. A person can never trully understand these consequences and so while having sincere “good: intentions ma cause evil if not instruted by God. This is why ther is the saying :the road to Hell is lined with good intentons.

    Therefore God judges what is Good vs Evil (the absence of good, like dark is the absence of light) and not on intentions or sincerity.

  • jon

    please excuse the spelling

  • Daniel

    The irony about the ad is clear: if it’s ridiculous for clergy to get so upset over a “little pill”, why is it not also ridiculous for liberals to get so upset over a “little pill”?

    The answer is, of course, it isn’t just a “little pill”, but something that represents something far greater. To the Roman clergy, it represents an assault on God’s plan for sexual reproduction; to liberals, it represents freedom.

    It is just so ironic that the clergy’s outrage over a “little pill” is viewed as “silly” but the liberal outrage over a “little pill” is somehow “courageous.”

  • Ben

    I always have a knee jerk reaction to these marketing campaigns. They are good and effective, but I also see how stupid they are and hate that they are good and effective. But that isn’t really the point here.

    I agree with you Erin, there is logic to it. You aren’t really committed to the religion, so why waste your time? Commit yourself to what you believe in rather than tradition or “what you should do.” I fully agree with it. Obviously not with their perspective or stance, but with the logic. You either believe God or not. If you are following Christ then this message is not for you, they even declare and acknowledge that first off. If you are not following Christ, then why do you go to church? Are you just following blind routine and tradition? That’s stupid and not doing anybody (including yourself) any good, so why not simply stop (and realign your life and actions to your beliefs)? If you do believe but have a distant relationship with God then you are disobedient to a certain level so it is time to stop and make a decision (and subsequently realign your life and actions to your beliefs). I think this is good. I think this is what we should demand of people in our churches. Of course, not harshly and we are always welcoming, but if they aren’t “really there” then if they aren’t there is it any worse? I would argue it is actually better. I’m not okay with dead people. I am really not okay with our congregations acting like dead people are alive. So why do the dance? Call it like it is. People want to follow or not. Sure there are shades of gray for where people are at and we should be able to meet them there and come along side them, but the decision to follow is black or white. We should not represent it as anything else.

  • The ad comes across either as an excuse to spew bigoted hate speech and ridicule towards the Catholic Church, or as a sign of desperation and instability in FFRF: Parody translation of the FFRF ad:

  • The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) submitted a similar ad to the Times with the copy rewritten to address “moderate Muslims” and encourage them to “quit Islam”. The Time rejected it, saying that it would be a bad idea to publish it in light of the recent Koran burning and killings in Afghanistan. They would, however, consider it for publication in a few months.

    More details here.