Leading Article: Snappy slogans to pack the pews

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The Independent Online
THE SUCCESS of the Church of England's advertising campaign last Christmas in attracting increased congregations suggests that people are open to religious ideas, despite a general decline in attendances. Slogans pitched in contemporary terms speak to people who feel an affinity for Christianity but find the inside of a church strange and unfamiliar.

People today are deluged with information and demands on their attention. Thus, the old techniques of religious proselytising, unless renewed, are likely to become part of society's background noise. The churches have to compete for hearts, minds and souls.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for other British religions, which could offer a wealth of inspiration to millions of people who have never developed their religious knowledge. If slogans could be developed to attract them, for example, to Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism, mutual understanding would at least be increased.

For example: 'If you wouldn't hurt a flea, you could contemplate Buddhism.' Alternatively, you could 'give peace a chance with the Buddhists'. Hinduism might advertise its belief that there is no objective religious truth, drawing on its story of the seven blind men who touched different parts of an elephant. 'How many Hindus does it take to describe an elephant?' might intrigue the curious. The Sikhs could rely for a slogan on the sources of their beliefs: 'Looking for a guru? Why settle for one when you can learn the teachings of our ten?' And Muslims could suggest the benefits of fasting during Ramadan: 'Why not forsake food for thought?' Amid the throng, the Jews, who do not proselytise, could remain reserved with: 'Don't call us, we'll call you.'

Among the Christians, advertising might become crucial as the battle for souls hots up. 'Join us on Sunday, when the only vicars wearing frocks will be men' would identify those who cannot accept ordination of women priests. Meanwhile, High Church Anglicans could declare: 'There are more bells and better smells with the Anglo- Catholics.'

Roman Catholics might also weigh in to recruit those deserting the Anglican Church. A photograph of St Peter's Basilica could be captioned: 'There's no place like Rome.'

Whichever direction Christian advertising goes, it is likely to move a long way from the time in 1517 when Martin Luther was able to grab Europe's attention by nailing 95 theses to the church door in a drafty porch at Wittenberg Castle.