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Christ in Converse? Brooklyn diocese launches 'hipster' Jesus ad campaign

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Advertisements on bus-stops and phone booths in the Brooklyn area depict the bottom half of what is presumed to be Jesus Christ. Attired in a red robe, the feet sport Chuck Taylor sneakers, coupled with the motto "The original hipster." The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn says it's a bid to attract new parishioners. It must have worked, as traffic on the diocese's Web site has gone up 400 percent.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The diocese, in a statement refers to Seth Meyers' joke on "Saturday Night Live" that Converse sneakers are why more Catholics are returning to the church. The marketing campaign is "showing a cooler and more welcoming side of the Catholic Church.

"We're called to go where the people are...to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ where people are, be that a bar, gym, restaurant, or what have you," Monsignor Kieran Harrington, vicar for communications at the Brooklyn diocese and campaign creator says.

"Jesus appears (in these ads) like people of the L train," he said. "What is a hipster anyway? Someone who stands against the (mainstream) culture. Jesus stood against the culture."

It's all part of a clever new marketing campaign. Yet another ad posted by the Brooklyn diocese features a photo of a treadmill and is placed in gyms with the caption: "Tired of running in place? Attend Mass."

Also on display in bars and restaurants, another ad man who looks worse for the wear that asks "Should I get a new habit?"

"There's a lot of noise in Brooklyn, lots of people competing for attention," he said. "You have to cut through the noise, and this ad campaign was meant to do that."

The idea for the ad campaign originally came from a discussion about making people aware there are a variety of different faces who attend the church.

While the attempt at outreach is seen by many as commendable, there are those within the church who feel disenfranchised. "The Brooklyn Diocese seems to be making a special effort to attract younger people to the church. One is reminded of the phrase 'If you can't lick them, join them,'" says one user on a Web site. "Meanwhile the leadership of that diocese and prelates in general take for granted those of us who faithfully attend mass and contribute generously to every collection."

Nationally, "hipster" churches have attracted younger crowds at both Protestant and Catholic churches. Many such places catering to younger people emphasize a more casual attitude towards such things as strong language, fashionable clothing and "R"-rated movies.

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