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Shopping for God: How Christianity Went from In Your Heart to In Your Face Hardcover – September 18, 2007


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Shopping for God: How Christianity Went from In Your Heart to In Your Face + Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age (Media, Religion and Culture)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743292871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743292870
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,695,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twitchell (Branded Nation) offers a provocative but uneven analysis of the nexus of consumerism and Christianity. Arguing that Americans live in a religious marketplace, where religious sensation is... manufactured, branded, packaged, shipped out, and consumed, he examines the cultural significance of marquee signs, the appeal and limitations of megachurches and the choreography of Franklin Graham's crusades. The most fascinating sections analyze the strengths and weaknesses of mainline denominations' print and television advertising campaigns. Twitchell helpfully contextualizes the marketing of religion in the larger story of American consumerism, and he intriguingly points out that some of our most important advertising gurus were the children of clergy. Although often incisive and insightful, Twitchell's analysis is marred by an annoyingly colloquial tone and an occasional ahistoricism. Although Twitchell is clearly familiar with other historical moments in which Christianity was marketed, he seems to imagine that in some bygone era, American religion was private. The claim that The old-style celeb kept his religion to himself overlooks the fact that many old-time celebs, such as Henry Ward Beecher, were preachers. Although he rehearses the history of the Great Awakening—when newspapers puffed revivalists—he suggests that religion's status as big news for journalists is a new development. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

James B. Twitchell is professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida. He is the author of several books on English literature, culture, marketing, and advertising, most recently Living It Up: America's Love Affair with Luxury.

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on September 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"This is not a book about God" (p. 1).

Thus begins James Twitchell's book, Shopping for God. "Essentially, this book is about how religious sensation is currently being manufactured, packaged, shipped out, and consumed" (p. 3). It is about "... buying and selling..." the religious experience. "...[We] are doing a robust business in supplying valuable religious experiences for shoppers at reasonable prices" (p. 2).

Sam Harris and others might counter that this price is too high, but that's a subject that can reviewed in their books.

Twitchell uses a lot of examples in this well-written book. He brings up the evolution of the religious braggart in the entertainment industries (note Mel Gibson's impact with The Passion of the Christ). He discusses the development of the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson types (did Robertson really state of liberal professors, "They are racists, murderers, sexual deviants, and supporters of Al Qaeda -- and they could be teaching your kids" (p. 8)).

Radio, television, books, and the internet... these are all fertile ground for the planting of of the seeds of religious dogma. "Just about every American -- 96 percent, in one poll -- believes in God" (p. 22). Twitchell proclaims that there are over 2000 religious groups in America today.

And there is extreme competition for market share.

People are shopping, and religions are branding. Twitchell discusses the marketing strategies in this Church Growth Movement. There is competition for your soul.

Here's an example that I missed: the United Church of Christ's infamous "bouncer" campaign in 2005. The television ad goes like this. All types of people are denied entry to a church by a tough bouncer. Fade to black.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Nelson on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Twitchell's book is part history, part analysis of our present situation. He uses a lot of examples from the course of the church's history to show different ways in which the church has tried to market itself. Of course, he notes that for most of its 2000-year existence, it hasn't really felt the need to compete as it was the only show in town. Still, he details the Catholic church's sale of indulgences and icons that led up to the Reformation, and notes that these sales were primarily sales of an experience. If people wanted to experience grace and forgiveness; to experience some kind of emotional high, this was how they could purchase it.

Twitchell also spends some time with more recent trends as he details his theory of selling an experience. He especially details the techniques of revivalist Charles Finney, who would purposefully seat his most exhuberant audience members up front (the "anxious bench") so that others would see them and be caught up in the moment. This was a technique that exploited herd mentality and emotionalism, but also employed the technique of urgency: implying that you don't want be the last to convert; that it's for a limited time only. All of these techniques, Twitchell argues, are used by many churches all over.

Twitchell spends a lot of time talking about church "branding." Essentially, he says, churches are trying to sell a story and an experience and less the message of salvation. That comes later, but first the experience has to rope people in and give people a sense that this experience is better than the experience they'll get elsewhere. Similar to Finney's revival tactics, Twitchell argues, people will first look for how good a particular church makes them feel. Is the congregation welcoming enough? Is the music moving enough?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Twitchell's "Shopping for God" is about how many modern-day Christians in America go about the process of consuming - buying and selling - the religious experience. Twitchell focuses on what has been happening in America where there is a free market in religious products, more commonly called beliefs and on what is common with fast growing denominations - selling. Today, a church is chosen, and "purchased" in an act that mimics consumption elsewhere.

Instead of expecting people to accept their practices, fast growing denominations have tailored their churches to meet the needs and desires of those they hope to serve. They define the church in a much more expansive way than traditional churches do. They attract people from a variety of religious backgrounds and center their preaching on the problems of daily life - the pain and problems that stem from a broken marriage financial trouble, aging, aloneness, substance abuse, etc. Attendees seek relief, as opposed to guilt; they want good news, not more bad news.

Essentially, this about how churches get you and others into church? How are the sensations of these beliefs generated, marketed, and consumed? Who pays? How much? And how come the markets are so roiled up right now in the United States? Or have they always been that way? Does the church on the corner operate like a gas station? What about the mega-church out thereby the interstate - is it like a big-box store? What about the denominations that they represent - do they compete? Why are they hiring so many marketing consultants? How do churches position themselves? How do they separate themselves from one another? How they break through the clutter of not just other religions but other denominations?
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