Friday, April 20, 2018


The friendly church on the corner.”

I do not know why they curl my chin hairs but church slogans do.  It seems more and more Catholic parishes are jumping on board with this also.  It is not just a theme for a year but a slogan to identify their brand like, “Finger lickin’ good!”

Perhaps this is it: don’t tell me who you are - show me.  A parish or church already has a reputation in its neighborhood which no slogan will do anything to change.  If you want to be “Christ centered,” don’t put it on a banner, figure out what the community can do to be more Christ centered.  If you want to be known as friendly, don’t put it on your marque, do something to develop the reputation of being friendly.  A slogan might be a nice interior reminder of what the community is striving for - like a mission statement - but there are better ways of handling it.

Slogans are also rather confining.  A Catholic parish does many things and expresses it in many ways.  Being “friendly” is such a small part of what we are supposed to be and “Christ centered” should be so obvious that it is like putting a sign on your dog that says, “This is a dog.”  So what?  tell me something I don’t know.

If someone wants you to know that they are trustworthy, the best thing they can do is simply be trustworthy.  Then, after 99 times of trusting them they slip up, you think, “This is odd.  So unlike him.”  And the friendship is much more salvageable.  If your trust is largely built on the slogan on their T-shirt, “You can trust me!” then if he slips up you’ll simply roll your eyes every time you see him and keep your counsel to yourself.

Mom always used to say, “If you have to say it, it probably isn’t true.”  That is probably where I get my general angst with church slogans.  They are quick and easy and don’t really do anything by themselves.  But developing a community, a culture, a reputation, an environment slowly, over years, and gaining a good name is worth all of the slogans of the world.


Dick said...

Father, YES Please spare us from the creeping protestant habit of cute slogans. I guess it is all part of the dumbing down of America. Everything has to have a gimmick like the song from "Gypsy."

Actions are always better than words.

Chris P. said...

So, I've been staring at this post for a week now. I've been unable to articulate it - but I'll give it the ol' country try before I forget to articulate it at all.

I have two general thoughts on this. The first is quite simple. If you've got someone's attention long enough to read a slogan, you've been given a precious gift of their time... even 5 seconds of their time is a gift. Don't waste it giving them something they already know. There's not much I have a lower tolerance for than prosperity-gospel types, but I have to admit - they get your attention for 5 seconds and they lay this on you - "If you believe in god, you'll just roll in the cash and get sweet tailored suits like I've got."

That's pretty solid right there.

It's always worth thinking what your pitch is, slogans, actions, whatever. I've tried my best for that answer to be "Exude contentment, but never fake it, especially when things are difficult." It's the only way I've ever been able to get people honestly interested in anything deeper.

Second - the real problem with a slogan on a Catholic Church? The truth is that this church is built on bloody, gory, awful, terrible things. It's full of despair, hopeless, longing, and sin. The truth is that Christ managed to take these awful things, live them all through the Passion - and construct the most beautiful outcome that the world has ever experienced.

I can't think of something so uniquely unqualified to be distilled into a slogan. I'd be more comfortable with a Catholic Church with a slogan like "Pasta Dinners every Friday Night."

All this isn't to say that "slogan Churches," are bad or made an awful mistake - they're certainly full of smarter, holier people than me. Perhaps someone had figured this out in a way I haven't seen, or perhaps they work in ways I don't understand. It's just to say that slogans are trite, and don't have enough in them to convey nuance and a sense of what truly is profound.

I hope I got that across right. I've re-read it now a few times, and I'm still not sure I've said what I want to.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of "Jesus Christ is Everything to us." Among other things, it's not very poetic or musical, it doesn't roll off the tongue very well. And how different is this, really, from any other Catholic church?