Friday, September 14, 2007

Capitalist Christians

A few blogs that I have visited lately gave me pause. One I read rather regularly, the other I have only visited a few times, the most recent visit consisting of stirring up a hornet's nest.

Both bloggers are Christians, although they are from very different perspectives and would probably strongly refute the other's theology and cultural experience. Yet they both have something in common; they have been trying to make a buck off of their blogs.

Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with that. Hey, I could use a buck or two to help fix our plumbing issues, so I totally get trying to do whatever possible to maximize financial possibilities. However, should there be a difference when a blog is 90% about Christianity/Religion/God?

I think so.

The first blog on which I noticed this trend has Google Ads and also uses Pay Per Post ads. The Google Ads are off to the side and are somewhat unobtrusive. When this blogger first began posting his pay per post ads, there was a disclaimer at the end declaring the nature of the post. Very above-board.

Not so anymore. On my last visit, I noticed a post about debt reduction--one of the regular topics of the blog. Hovering my arrow over the links in the post, I quickly discovered that all the links led to a mortgage company's refinance site. They were not informational links, but commercial links. It was a pay per post ad--one without a disclaimer and much more skillful at blending into the blog. The deceptive nature of the post left a bad taste in my mouth.

Bloggers should never use their readership to unwittingly line their pockets, especially if they are claiming to run a Christian blog. I fail to see how such practices are ethical. If you're going to have advertising, don't try to hide it. Don't mislead readers, who tune into your debt reduction posts, to follow links to some company which wants to loan them money. Could things be more hypocritical?

The second blogger has lots of advertising. He has ads, donation buttons, sells his own products. It's very upfront. That being said, lately he has added a huge rotating banner ad. Every time it has been up it has displayed a link to a Christian singles site--no big deal, right? I guess not, unless "Christian singles" is code for somewhat slutty-looking blonds, with large breasts, in small tank tops, posed at the perfect angle to display their attributes. Seriously. All the Christian, single women I know look like that! (please note sarcasm) I have seen much more tasteful, secular dating sites. I would be less offended with a link then a purported "christian" site that seems to be selling a sexually-objectified fantasy to what must be a hormonal male audience that wants to make sure that the hot, available babe that seems ready for action is at least "christian".

It's disturbing on so many levels.

Once you open the ad-box too far, you lose control of the atmosphere of your blog, a certain amount of integrity, and the purity of your message. If money becomes a guiding force in your Christian blogging, how can you combine the message of Christ with all the counterfeits for sale in your side bar? Accept Jesus and while you're at it, be sure to swing by the Starbucks site and pick up a CD, bag of coffee, and maybe some gift cards...this is a limited time offer, people!

This isn't new to Christianity. It operates in every Christian speaker's circuit when they sell trinkets, books and CD's when the show's over. It happens in churches with bookstores. It happens when you pay $150.00 to attend a conference to teach you how to be more godly.

People want to know about God. People want to discuss Him and congregate with others who feel the same way. It creates a ready-made market for those savvy enough to seize the financial opportunity before them--not unlike some money changers that used to do business in the Temple in Israel.

God is not a marketing ploy to make a buck.

If your blog is truly borne of a desire to guide people to Jesus, trash most of the advertising on it. Anything less and you're trying to serve two Masters, and we all know how well that works out.

UPDATE...I wrote this post at night....which usually means I am more frank and less genteel in my language choice! :-) I apologize to any blonds who might have been offended by the term "slutty-looking". Obviously, one does not lead to the other.

I still feel the same way about the issues I brought up, but maybe my language could have been chosen better.


Amanda said...

I totally agree with you. That's one reason I never had ads on ID (ok, when I first started I tried to use adsense, but that was before I had any readers so it shouldn't count against me :P ).

Since my content was primarily Christian, I just couldn't bring myself to put ads on the page. It didn't feel right.

That isn't to say that I haven't seen some Christian sites with well placed ads that were always onobtrusive.

terri said...

I am not completely against any type of ad.

If it's a personal blog or any other kind of blog...go for it!

It's only the intersection of a predominantly Christian blog and advertising that bugs me.

It's one of the reasons I stopped subscribing to Christianity Today. I couldn't stomach 50 ads about cushioned pew seats, "innovative" seminaries that will transform your life, and the next big conference that would revolutionize your church.....ugh.