October 15, 2020

A Christian Owned and Operated Business

restored RV

I just saw a cable TV commercial for a local business that provides RV sales and service. Since I cannot afford such a luxury and lack the time to use it even if I could, I am not sure why I watched the ad. I am glad I did, though, because it inspired this post. You see, the ad mentioned that this company was "a Christian owned and operated business." In fact, this phrase was evidently so important to the company that it was used twice - once at the beginning and again at the end of the 30 second ad. They must really want viewers to know that they are Christian!

My first thought - at least my first non-profane thought - was "only in the South." But I then remembered that the American bible belt is not confined to the South. Now I am wondering whether this sort of advertising strategy could be more common that I realize even outside the traditional bible belt. Have you experienced anything like this in your area? Do some of your local businesses go out of their way to identify themselves as Christian businesses? Do any of them offer benefits to Christian customers that are not made available to other customers?

I see at least three possible reasons a company would flaunt their Christianity in this manner, and I suspect all three apply in many cases. First, the company might view this as an effective marketing strategy. I am not saying that the owners aren't actually Christians (in fact, I'd be surprised if any successful businesses in my area weren't owned by Christians) but that this is a deliberate attempt to market themselves to Christians. Second, the owners could be doing this less as a marketing strategy and more as a method of proselytizing. In other words, sharing their "good news" with the TV audience may be even more important to them than attracting customers. Third, the owners may view their ad as a coded message about their ethics. That is, "a Christian owned and operated business" may communicate to believers and non-believers alike that the owners of this company adhere to the highest ethical standards in their business practices. After all, Christianity is widely (and mistakenly) thought to be the source of Western morality or even Western civilization itself (for more on the topic of morality, see these posts by Goosing the Antithesis and Atheist Ethicist).

I would love to see some research on whether flaunting one's Christianity was an effective method of advertising a business. The study would involve two commercials, identical in every way, except only one would add mention of the Christian ownership. Then we'd compare how viewers rated the company and actual sales. If you are aware of anything like this having been done, please let me know. My guess is that somebody has conducted such a study.

This brief post initially appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2007. It was revised and updated in 2020.