The new book Next Now (Palgrave) pays a good deal of attention to religion, but its main value may be in demonstrating how marketers and advertisers are latching on to religious trends to market new lifestyles and products. Unlike many futurists, the book, by marketers Marian Salzman and Ira Matathia, clearly sees more of the same ahead rather than drastic change; the culture wars and religio-political conflict will continue in the years ahead, even if the majority of Americans in the middle are uncertain about many of the divisive issues.
Megachurches will retain their hold in American religion, not least for their entrepreneurial spirit. Others, however, may choose to live within the “geographical boundaries drawn by religion”; Salzman and Matathia view the establishment of the conservative Catholic Ave Maria community built around a new Catholic university as something of a bellwether trend.
But it is religion as “big business” which the book targets as the growth industry. The authors see “More Americans…turning toward the commercial arena as a place to express personal beliefs and attitudes, even a higher purpose,” with churches serving, according to one marketer, as built-in distribution channels…and word-of-mouth promoters.” Salzman and Matathia advise readers to “Watch as more churches and religious events secure grand-scale sponsorship deals from big business to secure their brand identities in the hearts and minds the country’s congregations.”