The Marketing Challenge of Limbo

April 24, 2007 by

Today, we heard the words “Marketing Challenge,” and immediately sprang into action. (It’s kind of like the bat symbol for us.) Then, as we read on, we found that we were even called out. Advertising Age asked what we would think of the Catholic church’s position paper on Limbo. And how do we feel about this?

First things first. Theology precedes marketing. I trust the Catholic Church put a lot of effort into understanding this matter theologically, and that’s paramount to all the marketing in the world. If we’re marketing the wrong message, we ought not be marketing at all. For quite some time, the Catholic Church has abandoned the idea of Limbo–this is just pointing out the elephant in the closet.

The principle to be drawn here? Never change what you believe for marketing’s sake. If you believe that all babies are going to hell, then defend yourself. Don’t shy away from that because it won’t go over well. I’m pretty sure that there’s no free passes on Judgment Day for sweet marketing ideas. Don’t live like there is.

Onto how they did this. Publishing position papers is nothing new. Just listen closely and you’ll hear people yelling at Mark Driscoll for his. I do think, however, that it’s a great idea. It gives the world access to your theology, and it shows them that you do actually think about things, rather than stagnating. To say “We were wrong,” or “This is where we stand” is a courageous thing to do.

Think about successful marketing campaigns for a moment. The 1984 Apple ad. That talking chihuahua for Taco Bell. Any you can think of. Successful marketing will never be defined as indifferent, unsure, or ambivalent. Marketing your church will never be successful when people view you as these things either.

The Catholic Church went a little soft here. Essentially, they said, “There’s no Limbo, but we’re still not sure if babies go to Heaven.” (Note: extreme paraphrase.) Maybe not the strongest stance to take, but you at least have to give them style points for honesty. Just be careful how you deal with issues when the answer is, “We don’t know.”

So all in all, we see a couple things from this move. Firstly, theology before marketing–always. And secondly, be bold. Take a stance on things, and be prepared to dialogue with people about these stances.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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6 Responses to “The Marketing Challenge of Limbo”

  • Mean Dean
    April 24, 2007

    Well, this isn’t really news. Blogger Mark Shea of ‘Catholic and Enjoying It’ wrote on this very issue back in November, 2005 describing Limbo more as a “theory” rather than “theology” as the not-often-nice-to-Christians NZ Herald would have one believe.

  • ginny
    April 24, 2007

    Personally, I’m always glad to hear a church say “we don’t know.” It’s honest. Non-christians aren’t stupid. Admitting we don’t have all the answers isn’t going to turn them off any more than the arrogance of acting like we know everything.

  • Religion is BS
    April 24, 2007

    Oh wow, well thank god they’re on top of this one. Limbo is such a logical thing to believe in in the first place. I’m so glad they have a new position on it. It’s like saying “I believe in unicorns and today I think they are alllll purple.” Take a science class people.

  • Mean Dean
    April 24, 2007

    Hmmm … to the last comment … again, I think Mark Shea makes it clear, this isn’t a new theological position, but rather a rethinking of whether or not a theory should become theology.
    Looks like it was finally run through the fires of Scripture and found lacking. Happens y’know. Otherwise we wind up with silly stuff like various “lost gospels.”

  • D T
    December 25, 2008

    This post’s historical and theological representation of limbo is false. Please, readers, disregard it.
    For a true understanding of limbo, please see

  • DT
    December 25, 2008

    This post’s historical and theological representation of limbo is false. Please, readers, disregard it.
    For a true understanding of limbo, please see

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