Publicity, it is said, is the life of trade. The best merchandise in the world may rot in the warehouse if the attention of the potential purchasers is not called to it, while the worst of materials may find a ready market when put attractively before the public. If you would sell your goods, you must tell the world what you have, and how much people need it.
Religion is not for sale. It is not a marketable commodity. Yet the process of getting it before the people and persuading them of its benefits is compared to buying and selling. "Ho, every one that thirsteth," cried the prophet. "Come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isa. 55:1. The world must be informed of the benefits of true religion. You may have in your teachings the very key of life, but the people are not aware of it. They were not born with such knowledge and conviction, and you must tell them by every means in your power that you have the commodity they most need. We owe it to mankind to tell them the truth.
These thoughts are suggested by the publicity, and lack of it, given to two more or less equally important meetings held recently in two of the world's capitals. There was the Catholic consistory held recently in Rome in which thirty-two new cardinals were created. The departure of the four American cardinals-designate, their doings while in Rome, and their return to the homeland, were all done in the greatest blaze of publicity ever seen. The Christian Century, in its issue of February 27, 1946, complains of this publicity and says:
"If it had been Elijah ascending to heaven in the fiery chariot, the coverage could scarcely have been more complete or the display more prominent. . . .
"The World Council of Churches is now in session in Geneva. This is perhaps the most momentous meeting in history of the non-Roman churches. Very eminent American delegates are in attendance. Most of them also left by airplane. Neither their departure from their several cities nor their arrival in Geneva created any fever of journalistic excitement. It was neither expected nor desired. Nor will their return be heralded by civic displays or banner headlines in the press. That is all right too. But the event is important and should have a decent amount of publicity. There should be some reasonable proportion about these things. What we object to is such inflated and exaggerated publicity for Roman Catholic activities as virtually says, This is the real thing; this is the significant expression of the nation's religion; this is the genuine church."
Time magazine had this to say of the Geneva gathering: "Without any advance headlines, without adequate press facilities, hundreds of clerics staked out a program to change and improve the shape of the world. Unlike the splendor of Rome's parallel gesture, the Geneva meeting was stark and austere."—March 4, 1946, p. 6o.
Now, if the churchmen in Geneva were staking out "a program to change and improve the shape of the world," why did they not let the world in on it by giving it all the publicity possible? You cannot change the world nor improve it while keeping it in ignorance of what you are doing.
Was the consistory in Rome a religious ceremony primarily? Or was it mainly social? Four high dignitaries of the Catholic Church were going to Rome to be made princes of the church, and returning to their country a step higher in the social ladder of their community, and their fellow countrymen felt elevated in their elevation, and they rejoiced with them. Was there anything morally uplifting, anything that would lead to life on a higher moral plane in this social advancement? It seems to us that the whole ceremony, and the publicity given it, savored of politics more than of religion. We do not envy the cardinals their advancement in social standing, but we do wish that some of this publicity had been given to salvation through faith in Jesus, and we are apprehensive that the total effect of the consistory and its attendant publicity will be to convince men that the thing that matters is social advancement, and the power that comes through it to influence national and world affairs, rather than to lead them to life through faith in Christ Jesus. In all this we have a demonstration of the failure of the popular church to do the very work for which alone she exists. Instead of seeking to lead men to follow the lowly Jesus in all humility that they might be saved, she is seeking the worldly advancement and power that leads to despotism and destruction.