According to this press release, the Unitarian Universalists have decided to advertise their religion within the pages of programs sold at college football bowl games this season. I admire the optimism behind this ad campaign, but this strikes me as an even bigger exercise in futility than sending 19 year olds door to door.
I’m trying to imagine the circumstances under which followers of the Crimson Tide and the Cornhuskers would want to know more about the religion of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Football fans are people who travel hundreds of miles to a bowl game, and who spend thousands of dollars on game tickets, hotels, meals, and bar tabs. They take their shirts off in freezing weather and paint their chests and faces with the school colors. They put ridiculous plastic pig noses on their faces while shouting “Sooooeeee!” as their beloved Razorback hogs move the ball downfield. If the hogs are not moving the ball down the field, they shout profanity instead. Unless it is the referee’s fault, then they will shout profanity at him. Do the suits at UU really think that the field is white, already to harvest among folks who enjoy watching large scholar-athletes knock one another to the ground in a game of tackle?
Here is what the UUA president, the reverend Rev. William G. Sinkford, said:
“This opportunity was simply too good to pass up. We’ve said for years that we want to be in the center of the conversation rather than on the margins. In our nation, there are few things closer to the center than holiday football games.”
The idea is unexpected, and crazy enough that it might work. It reminds me of a classic misdirection play, where the offensive line blocks in one direction, deceiving the defense just long enough for the ball carrier to sprint around the end in the opposite direction.
There really is a lot to be said for breaking down stereotypes and broadening our appeal. “The gospel net gathereth of every kind”, and perhaps we Mormons could benefit from a missionary effort which was directed at groups of people we haven’t approached before. Gordon B. Hinckley has said that new converts are the lifeblood of the church, so we must continually find ways to attract and befriend new members. Sooner or later we will run out of people who already look and act like us, so we’ll need to expand our definition of a golden investigator. If the UUs can troll for converts at football games, we can certainly identify ways to make the restored gospel meaningful and appealing to people who have so far not been interested.
Come to think of it, during this football bowl season, when the big game is over and their team has lost, at least half the people in the stands will be in despair, wondering if there really is a God. Maybe the seeds won’t fall on stony ground, after all.