Christianity Announces Major Rebrand to Dispel Hate Group Image

As followers flee, a return to basics?

Christianity Announces Major Rebrand to Dispel Hate Group Image
Brandon/FlickrCC

Christianity Inc. was once the envy of Wall Street, dominating the spiritual services sector with a full 90 percent of U.S. consumers shopping at its ubiquitous retail outlets.

But that was 30 years ago. Scroll forward to today, and the company’s customer base has plunged by one-third – a trend that’s only accelerating.

Analysts say Christianity has forgotten its core mission. Where it once sold serenity through a low-cost line of salvation products, it now dabbles in everything from treason to military fantasy camps. Customers are divided between those seeking community, and those who simply wish to shoot someone. That’s made onboarding a new generation of shoppers nearly impossible.

“Gen Z equates it to joining the Oath Keepers,” says Linda Cartwright, an analyst for J.P. Morgan.

Executives hope to change that.

At a press conference today, CEO Jesus H. Christ announced a major rebranding. Titled “He Gets Us,” the $100 million advertising initiative harkens back to the company’s founding 2,000 years ago.

As the campaign notes, the culture wars of the Pharaonic era weren’t much different than today’s. At the time, Mr. Christ was a struggling refugee turned social justice warrior, selling a love-thy-neighbor ethos from the back of his wagon. Some tried to cancel him, at one point nailing him to a cross. Mr. Christ persisted, eventually building an empire spanning seven continents.

Yet many wonder if that message still connects with modern consumers. When asked to describe “loving thy neighbor” in focus groups, roughly one-third of Christianity’s customers use terms like “not fun,” “boring,” and “even the gays?” Given the choice between Mr. Christ or a pharaoh as CEO, a full 36 percent would prefer a murderous ancient ruler.

This leaves executives with the difficult task of cultivating new customers — while not ostracizing those who wish to shoot them.

Analysts are unsure if Mr. Christ is up to the task. The CEO is often criticized for his hands-off management style, known as “free will,” in which front-line managers adjust to local market conditions as they see fit. The result is what can seem like a sprawling hodge-podge of liquidation outlets, each selling their own merchandise.

“There’s no product consistency,” says Ms. Cartwright. “Walk into a store, and it could be stocked with anything from New Age vitamin supplements to teen Proud Boys fashions.”

Entire divisions operate as entities unto themselves, often at cross purposes. “The Unitarian Division is like a hippie commune,” she says. “The Megachurch Division is basically a pyramid scheme.”

And while Mr. Christ attempts to rebrand, rebellious shareholders are dead set on stopping him. They’ve filed a flurry of lawsuits, claiming the CEO has abdicated his fiduciary responsibility. Though the love-thy-neighbor stores still account for a majority of customers, they generate little revenue, operating on a system of donations rather than maximized pricing. Compared to the riches to be had from hate-thy-neighbor consumers, the path forward is a “no-brainer,” critics assert.

“One megachurch generates more revenue than 100 Episcopal outlets,” says Martin Himmler, CEO of the private equity firm Hans Gruber, one of Christianity’s largest stockholders.

He’s pushing a shareholder resolution that would force Mr. Christ to fully pivot to a hate group model. Customer volume is sure to shrink, Mr. Himmler acknowledges. But by concentrating the company’s resources on meaner consumers, profitability would soar.

In his vision, Christianity’s vast real estate holdings would be converted to America First Superstores, stocking everything from Confederate flags to MyPillow-branded apparel. Meanwhile, data surreptitiously collected from shoppers could be used to launch new divisions selling reverse mortgages, conversion therapy, commemorative coins, and the like.

“You can collect what at a parish fish fry?” Mr. Himmler enthuses. “Maybe ten bucks a head? But stick a bald eagle on shiny metal, and these guys will pay $500.”

Despite his many shortcomings as an executive, Mr. Christ will not easily be toppled. He still enjoys high favorability ratings among traditional shoppers, who appreciate Christianity’s “service with a smile.” They’re not likely to back new leaders who loudly accuse each other of grooming.

Yet if Mr. Christ is to face down shareholders, he’ll have to do it without the company’s legendary chairman, God Almighty, who was notably absent from the press conference.

According to associates, Mr. Almighty hasn’t set foot in America for years, believing U.S. operations a lost cause. He prefers to concentrate on Latin America, where a closer adherence to traditional family values offers more fertile ground for Christianity’s future.

Friends say Mr. Almighty is especially inspired by those who endure harrowing journeys to slip into the U.S., then send their earnings back to relatives. “It reminds him of the old days when we were evading King Herod’s men,” says one executive.

Though Mr. Almighty has encouraged the company’s investments in initiatives like sanctuary cities and Obamacare – even launching his own budget travel agency to shuttle pilgrims from Mexico City to El Paso – he’s made it clear that America is Mr. Christ’s problem.
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