A Marketed People

In an article for Arutz Shiva 7 (israelnationalnews.com) Ronn Torossian addresses an issue facing the American Jewish diaspora. The existence of the state of Israel is a controversial thing among many different people in the world, and apparently this is true within the Jewish population as well. Is the shrinking support among American Jews a symptom of a much deeper problem? I do not wish to comment on Israel as a nation in this article, I would rather like to focus in on the insights of Mr. Torossian about the importance of reestablishing Judaism in the Jewish community.

Judaism in a religious context is to be understood not as creedal but instead wholly as a way of life.[1] Judaism is the means by which a nation without land has been preserved through the centuries. As a people they have lived differently than the people of the land they are in. This has at times brought persecution upon them which in some ways served to build the the powerful sense of togetherness that they felt. Torossian perceives, and rightly so from my perspective, that the real problem that is facing a future Israel is the increasing separation of people of Jewish decent from Judaism.

I believe that Torossian is seeing the power of a liturgical life. “We are what we love,” rings similar to the words of Jesus who said “where your treasure is that’s where your heart will be found.” And what I think is being witnessed is that this people group is not learning to love in the direction that has been loved and lived for generations before them. It is not surprising that this phenomenon is being spotted by someone in the world of marketing. If you have ever listened to the radio show Under the Influence on CBC you know that the desire of marketers is to get people to love stuff.

If they succeed at this it is profitable for them. Marketers understand the power of liturgy and ritual in a profound way, which is why things like “you deserve a break today.” and “it’s Miller time.” worked so well over the years. Repeated exposure to commercials and easy access to products has slowly been acquiring more and more of our attention to the point that it is becoming a religious experience.

James K. A. Smith lays this out well in his book Desiring the Kingdom, where he sites the powerful combination of patriotism, sports and military or the image of the shopping mall cathedral. With an absence of Judaism in the lives of American Jews it is no wonder that they fail to love Israel. Without it they are instead bombarded with the same commercialism that all other North Americans are and so have no reason to be less North American than anybody else. What are your thoughts on this? Does the idea of marketing as liturgy make sense? Should religious organizations stay away from marketing or are marketing businesses simply being better at doing what religion has done?  

[1]   Irving Hexham, Understanding World Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), pg. 271.

In an article for Arutz Shiva 7 : http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15158#.U6o2EptOWUl

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One thought on “A Marketed People

  1. How – or why – would anyone care about Israel if they do not care about Judaism?
    This sentence in the article is the crux of the story.

    The passion of the author shines through in this sentence. There is despair, longing and hope all wrapped up in 15 words. For me, this article was less about marketing faith and more about spotting trends and connections (which is a marketing tool). Perhaps because the author is not a rabbi or spiritual leader, but someone in the business world, he is more able to point a finger on the bigger issue instead of the little details.

    His question is transferrable to the Christian faith as well. We cannot engage the world for God if we do not know Jesus.

    Christianity, like Judaism, should be a wholly integrated way of life. Not segmented into days or holidays, but a living, breathing outworking of our life. Churches are already succumbing to the lure of marketing with increasing trendy websites, podcasts, advertising etc. No one is immune to the power of the sale.

    Should religious organizations stay away from marketing or are marketing businesses simply being better at doing what religion has done?

    Marketing juxtaposed with faith makes an ugly picture, too business-minded for faith. Perhaps what needs to happen is that we need to regain our own narrative and become story-tellers. I know in my own work in a Christian non-profit, that if we focus more on our story and less on ‘marketing’ we impact more people.

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