As I said in an earlier post, Kevin Roberts’ new book on marketing, Lovemarks: The Future beyond Brands, has been making me think about how we market religion. When I ask people why they come to church, one of the most common replies is that they are looking for, or found, some sort of intimacy in a Unitarian Universalist church. Roberts has a whole chapter on the search for intimacy, in which he writes:
Intimacy was crushed over the course of the 20th century. Everyone was determined to reduce complex exchanges of buying and selling into fast and efficient transactions. Little wonder that the people visiting the mall figured something was missing from their lives. Where once the moment of choice was wrapped in an intimate relationship with the seller, it has often become a sterile experience in an aisle that stretches forever.
The same is true in religion. In our Unitarian Universalist churches, we have lost the intimacy that we used to get when most churches were part of the fabric of community life, and you’d see the same people at church, at P.T.A meetings, in the grocery store, at the town dump. To try to regain that lost intimacy, we try all kinds of things — candles of joy and concern, small group ministries, support groups — that sometimes lead to real intimacy, but too often result in false intimacy. As Roberts points out, people are very good at detecting falseness. This may be why we lose some many newcomers after just a year or two: initially attracted by intimacy, they soon find it is false.
I predict that real intimacy, if we can figure out how to make it happen, is going to be at the heart of any renaissance of Unitarian Universalism. According to Roberts, demographics alone supports this contention:
A new global trend — the rising number of singles.
- In 1950, about 3 percent of the population of Europe and the United States lived alone. Today in the U.K., seven million adults live alone — three times as many as 40 years ago. The statistics bible Social Trends estimates that by 2020 one person households will make up 40 percent of total households….
- The shift towards solo living is most pronounced in the big urban centers of the West — with over 50 percent of households in Munich, Frankfurt, and Paris containing just one person, while in London nearly four in ten people live on their own….
- The growth in single-person households is mainly a result of an increasing number of 25s to 45s opting to live alone.
If we don’t want to fade away, we have to get those 25s to 45s into our churches, and that will almost surely involve offering a sense of true intimacy. And Roberts suggests three things that can foster a sense of intimacy:
First, empathy “so that we can understand and respond to other people’s emotions…. There is only one way to understand other people’s emotions, or anything for that matter. By listening.”
Second, we have to establish commitment “which proves that we are in the relationship for the long haul…. commitment can transform loyalty from an unthinking acceptance to a real state imbued with real emotion — Loyalty Beyond Reason.” As an example, Roberts cites the commitment Mac lovers have to Apply Computer. Apple can make mistakes and Mac fanatics still forgive them.
Third, and I believe most important for Unitarian Universalism, is passion “that bright spark that keeps the relationship alive.” If Unitarian Universalism is lacking anything these days, it’s passion. Yes, there are many of us who are passionate about our religion, but the religion itself offers little passion. Our “seven principles” are a wonderful statement, but they are cold and passionless.
To be continued Link