Being an anti-gay church in a nation that has expanded gay rights to include marriage can’t be easy. Maybe this is why such churches go to great lengths to mask the anti-gay position. The marketing departments in anti-gay churches have to work twice as hard in 2023. The majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage, so churches that refuse to marry gays or ordain gays have to be creative in marketing. It is not easy to be anti-gay so sometimes the marketing department accents the other reasons that anti-gay churches leave their denominations.
Anti-gay churches are quick to say, “At least we are not as anti-patriotic and hateful as Westboro Baptist Church.” Fred Phelps, prior to his death, and his church have always provided anti-gay churches a way of appearing more moderate, less hateful, and less homophobic. Rebecca Barrett-Fox in God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and The Religious Right, exposes the use of Westboro by other evangelical churches as a way of making themselves look good.
When ministers of anti-gay churches are asked why they have left their respective denominations, gays are often not mentioned.
“This is not about being opposed to gays. It’s really about missions and money.”
“We are welcoming of all persons.”
“We are proclaiming the gospel.”
“Look at all the good we are doing in our community.”
Imagine being hired to develop a marketing strategy for a large church that is anti-gay. The senior pastor has explained that your task is to help the church market its ministries and services to the community and not mention that the church is anti-gay.
Your first step will be to intensify the good points of your new employer – the anti-gay church. Concentrate on mission, preaching the gospel, love, worship. Produce a campaign that is really big on the concept of welcoming. Talk a lot about unity and togetherness. Accent your desire to make reconciliation available to everyone. Serving others and embodying the character and message of Jesus. Sound Christian teaching. Honor God’s word. Work together as partners in the gospel. Make Jesus the center of it all and be a church of passion and purpose.
Visit the new Methodist Global Church website and you will not find a single anti-gay statement. In a subliminal advertising ploy, you will vaguely notice the use of the colors of the rainbow flag in the background of at least one page of the website. Subtle!
Second, develop a six-session class for new members. During these classes, you will not bring up the church’s policy on gays until the final lesson. Then the group leader will explain that the church loves all LGBTQ person and has a deep desire for helping them to a relationship with Christ. But they are not in favor of gays being married or ordained. Never mention your anti-gay stance from the pulpit or in any of your publicity. Don’t talk about it. Perhaps no one will notice that you ae “welcoming” but not “affirming.”
Third, hone your message to ensure that you will not be known as an anti-gay church.
- Never say the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. If you don’t say it you will not be anti-gay.
- Use the words welcome, welcoming, inviting, hospitality, fellowship, and loving all the time.
- Talk constantly of discipleship, mission, faithfulness to the Bible and Jesus.
- In classes for people interested in joining your church, mention your stance on gays in the last class and don’t dwell on it.
- Remind people you are not anti-gay and if you left your denomination over the issue of gays, deny it. Say you left because of the bureaucratic issues, money, or liberal theology.
- Don’t say you are anti-gay but that you are pro-marriage.
- Emphasize your commitment to the Bible.
- Check out the WMC website and use their language.
Finally, find a way to overcome the shaming that the church receives from liberals for being anti-gay. No one likes to be shamed. Silvan S. Tomkins says, “Shame strikes deepest into the heart of man.” Progressive churches who support gay marriage and ordination are a project intimately associated with shame. Donovan Schaffer argues that we might even say that this orientation to shame is one of the cardinal principles of progressivism. Shame on the move—an openness to shame, a trafficking in shame—is how left-wing politics/religion feels. Leftists use shame to challenge not only the politics of others, but also themselves, grinding away their own sense of comfort in a relentless project to become more sensitive, more thoughtful, more moral.
No one appreciates being shamed. The conservatives want freedom from shame. That’s understandable. I believe that the desire not to be shamed plays a major role in how conservatives churches market their new denominations and insist they are not anti-gay.
Anti-gay churches engage in rhetoric designed to mitigate shame and replace it with a sense of pride. This is classic Donald Trump marketing. There is a circuit of shame and dignity.
In order to maintain the allegiance of its members, anti-gay churches have to find creative ways to repudiate the shame they receive from progressive churches and the secular society.
Even with creative marketing, the anti-gay churches still face an uphill battle in a secular culture that rejects the anti-gay message. Hiding that message in order to avoid being shamed seems like a waste of a good marketing budget.