When I was doing my undergraduate work at the University of Costa Rica one of the courses in the core curriculum was Principles of Marketing. One of the topics that came
up during the semester was subliminal advertising. This form of advertising was highly hailed as an unacceptable way of influencing a person’s mindset in regards to a particular product. Subliminal advertising is when a hidden message is flashed inside a commercial for such a short time that the viewer will not notice it, though it will be registered in your mind and subconscious. From what I heard in that class, what competitors of the companies who used this form of advertising were more upset about was that they had an unfair advantage in an otherwise fair market.
In recent weeks I started using the term subliminal evangelism as I reflect on ways in which we as Christians should go about sharing God’s Good News with the world. As Christians in the Bay Area we are constantly facing the fact that we are living at a time and in the place where conversations about God are hard to come by and even when we do have them, we have to tiptoe around a mounting number of sensitivities. I sometimes think that the image of the cross is as fearful a symbol to some members of our neighboring communities as it was for those who lived in first century Rome. What also comes to mind is verse four of psalm 137 that reads: Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. Though Oakland and the Bay Area are the native or even very long term homeland for many, it may also seem like an alien land for evangelism. So, how can we evangelize in a land that sees such witness as foreign? Here is where subliminality comes in (and it goes along the lines of Jesus’s command to not stand at the street corners to let your piety be known by all). My suggestion is that the Gospel message needs to be at the tip of our tongues, be central to our actions and be what binds our relationships. We need not smack people on the head with the Bible and its teachings, but rather we need to reach their subconscious, the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds. Effective evangelism does not come from the ability to quote chapter and verse but rather living them 24/7/365.
The message we deliver as Christians, as God’s people in the world, ought to be so deeply embedded in us that we are ourselves unaware of the moments in which it is revealed. However, others will notice that a message has been delivered even if they are not certain of exactly what it is or the long term effect it will have on their own lives and their desire to be in relationship with God.