Hank Hill, the father in the TV program known as King of the Hill said of Christian Rock music: “You’re not making Christianity better. You’re making rock and roll worse.”
This was a backward way of saying that the branding of something as “Christian” almost synonymously means second-rate. For instance, Christian movies and music are often known for their cringe-worthiness. Christian Etsy shops generally feature overpriced and mediocre products.
Catholic textbooks for schools are notoriously cheap paperback books filled with low quality paper and dated pictures. The content might be good, but the presentation already sets the tone and expectation for the students: second to all other subjects.
“Rather than educate and inform viewers on this very important subject, there is an underlying assumption that the audience will support the documentary because it is ‘Catholic’ rather than because it is good quality.”
A very recent documentary on the Latin Mass, Mass of the Ages, falls well short of the standards of an insightful, well-produced documentary and relies on second rate emotionally manipulative techniques, kitschy presentation, and bland cinematography to engage viewers.
Rather than educate and inform viewers on this very important subject, there is an underlying assumption that the audience will support the documentary because it is ‘Catholic’ rather than because it is good quality.
What drives these types of examples? Is it an underlying hubris which says that being a ‘Catholic’ or ‘Christian’ organisation means that the rules of quality, excellence and maintaining a competitive advantage that actually respects the consumer don’t apply to you?
Recently, the only licensed and branded Trappist brewery in the US, run by an order of Cistercians at St Joseph’s Abbey, announced that it will be closing. Despite its unique market advantage, the company failed to adapt to the hop-forward trends in brewing.
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin: If you fail to plan for the future, you’re planning to fail.
Similarly, the Word on Fire organisation and ministry founded by Bishop Robert Barron came under fire (no pun intended) with public staffing scandals that could have been avoided had WOF set up a decent HR department.
WOF has a well-deserved reputation for producing outstanding high quality productions, yet it seems that shortcuts were taken when it came to setting up the basic corporate structures to prevent conflicts of interest and allow it to grow and operate like any normal business.
“Some of its greatest contributions to the progress of civilisation have emerged from people of faith. Indeed, the most widely-read book of the twentieth century was written by a Catholic: The Lord of the Rings.”
Sadly, Catholic organisations are also known to often take advantage of the mission-driven employees by paying below-market rates. Why should someone who is capable and good at their job work for a company that does second-rate pay yet expects first-class work?
The Catholic Church has a long history of world class excellence in the arts, science, mathematics and literature. Some of its greatest contributions to the progress of civilisation have emerged from people of faith. Indeed, the most widely-read book of the twentieth century was written by a Catholic: The Lord of the Rings.
If we expect low-quality products, productions and organisations which trade on being ‘Catholic’ or ‘Christian,’ we will never live up to the rich cultural and scholarship tradition which has been handed to us.