“Happy People Are Broken”

Church signs just ain't what they used to be.

“Happy People Are Broken.” That’s what the lit-up sign outside the massive Second Baptist Church on Woodway Road in Houston said yesterday. I went back this morning to get a photo, but they had changed it to something more administrative. Since I can’t presume that the belief expressed in that sentence is part of official Baptist theology, I have to think something else is going on. And what that is seems pretty obvious.

It’s a teaser. It’s designed to get people asking “WTF?” (Baptists may express this using some other acronym.) The point, I presume, is to get you to come in on Sunday and find out what that sign actually meant, which was surely not what it says. Thus, dear friends, it’s a marketing ploy. Not a new one, mind you. It smacks a bit of the old bait-and-switch, doesn’t it?

So I had two reactions. My first was horror. How could anyone say that? Why would anyone say that? It’s awful. Let’s get these folks back on their meds before they hurt someone. I wanted to run in and find the pastor and ask him what was so wrong in his life that he would allow such a sign on his big megabucks church. Then I had the “aha!” moment, the one where you realize how stupid you are. If I went looking for the pastor, I’d get a cheerful pat on the back and a loving look and be told to return Sunday for the true meaning, which, no doubt, would include the rest of the sentence. Something like “Happy people are broken unless their happiness comes through Jesus” – or something like that.

That’s when I had my second reaction kicked in. What about this sort of marketing? You communicate something clearly offensive in the hope to lure in curious passers-by.  It reminds me a little (just a little, really) of the tactic often used by furniture stores, appliance stores, and car dealerships on tv ads: be so loud and annoying that people remember your name. OK, it’s not really the same thing, but I was reminded of the technique – a technique I never liked, no matter how much the cash registers may ring.

My respect for mega-churches has never been very high, since they seem more like big business than anything else. But this church has perhaps achieved a new low. I have more respect for the little church with the sign in the picture above than for this one; at least they’re honest.

My questions:

1) Is what the Second Baptist Church did ethical?
2) Is it good (i.e., effective) marketing?
3) If it’s not ethical, but it doesn’t really hurt anyone, and it is effective, is it wrong?

My answers: No, No, and Yes. Anyone else want to chime in?

P.S. The signs outside religious institutions have taken on a social and political role of their own of late. What do you think about that?



About Peter Feldman

I'm a marketing and communications pro with more than 25 years experience helping professional service businesses get the right message to the right people in the right way. I’m also an adjunct professor of English.

Posted on December 19, 2021, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree. I’m siatrtng a new “Top 12 Tuesday” on this blog and every Tuesday I’ll post a top 12 on various topics. I’ll have to write one specifically about church websites.

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