One of my kiddos is a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies. He loves to say, “Clever girl!” in a fake Australian accent.
The “clever girl” in the movie is a vicious raptor. I’m not exactly comparing church people to a man-eating dinosaur, but I do think we try too hard and value too highly being clever.
Now I’m a Gen X girl, so cynical cleverness is bone-deep in me. As kids, my brother and I loved to watch Sha-na-na with our parents just for the obnoxious joy of complaining about it and poking fun at each person on the show. Clever is fun; clever protects you; clever seems easy.
Yet I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of vulnerability, the willingness to speak from the heart without an armor of smart catchphrases, and the faith of an adult who’s moved into maturity and found that their faith has re-captured childlike awe. And I suspect that my struggles with being clever are shared by others.
Consider the recent UCC marketing campaign, ‘Still Speaking 2.0.’ Many of the social media ads missed the mark, this one perhaps most of all:
I had to search for a bit to find it again! It’s clever – superficial and smug – but misses the mark on fidelity and honesty in regard to history and scripture, not to mention glossing over the real harm done to LGBTQA+ persons by political and religious powers.
I don’t want to stop at criticizing the valuable work done in our national setting to promote local church vitality. I do want to offer this suggestion, for Still Speaking 2.0 and for us all: tone down the clickbait, take the chip off our collective shoulders, and stop trying to be cool.
Instead take a deep breath and make an invitation:
“This is our faith community. I’ve found something there – a welcome, a sense of calling, and people who love me. I would love for you to come check it out.”
Simple, honest, openhearted. What does THAT kind of marketing campaign look like?
Think about the difference between Peter trying too hard at the Transfiguration: “Jesus, I got it! Let’s build a little house for you, a little house for Elijah, and a little house for Moses and we’ll just stay right here!” and humbled, vulnerable Peter after Easter: “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Peter’s job in much of the Jesus story is to be a complete doofus, but at the very end of the last chapter of the final Gospel, he gets it.
There’s hope for us all.