A former newspaperman turned clergyman recently noted that in our “adman’s age,” which emphasizes package more than content, publicity in the field of religion must remain primarily concerned with substance rather than with wrapping.

Speaking to the Washington Chapter of the National Religious Publicity Council, Dr. Charles D. Kean, rector of Epiphany Church in that city, voiced Christian anxiety over subtle temptations posed by a publicity-conscious age to the preaching of the Gospel. Too often in Christian effort, he laments, only a tenuous connection exists between the “build-up” and the product; what may be called a “religious commercial” is superimposed on a quite unrelated presentation. But the Church, unlike manufacturers of automobiles, cheese, lipstick, razor blades and soap, cannot morally expect listeners and viewers to accept its “commercial” because it has presented what amounts to marginally related entertainment. Implications for the Sunday morning sermon are obvious.

Especially salutary is Dr. Kean’s emphasis on the necessity for confronting all prospects with the requirement and urgency of soul decision. “You can’t sneak the product by them,” he emphasizes; “They must be confronted for decision in terms of the Cross and man’s redemption. If they ‘decide’ simply out of marginal considerations, they may turn away later if they discover better entertainment elsewhere.” Or they may make the churches simply the back door to interests associated with church clubs and secondary agencies.

Dr. Kean’s quarrel is not with the Church’s use of media, but with its somewhat irresponsible and undisciplined choice and handling of it. The Church must ask first of all, will a given medium help fulfill the Church’s major purpose, ...

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