A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across an article about the United Church of Canada and its move to add drinking bottled water to its list of "immoral" acts. While it seems trivial, it's actually a very significant story, particularly from a business perspective. Which is why Bloomberg had, as best I could tell, the most thorough article on the matter. As a pragmatic matter, the bottled water business is a multimillion-dollar industry and there is a chance that the church's boycott could hurt the industry.
If there was a theological reason for this church's move, Bloomberg didn't give us one. But it did give us enough background to put this move into perspective:
The United Church has a tradition of staking out positions on social issues. It wants the Canadian government to recognize native land claims, stop its involvement in gambling and lotteries, and increase spending on affordable housing.
The church also supports same-sex marriage and wider access to contraceptives.
The effort against bottled water is part of the "Water in Focus'' campaign, which encourages congregation members to pressure governments and corporations to protect watersheds from exploitation and pollution. Educational materials include action booklets, brochures and a map linking "water struggles'' around the world.
The church says the world's poor are losing access to clean water. It says more than 1 billion people worldwide lack safe drinking water and sanitation services.
Apparently opposing drinking water doesn't give the church enough attention, so, as the Globe and Mail reported last week, the church is resorting to the baseball park strategy of handing out bobbleheads -- of Jesus. Again, the reader is not to be surprised by this because it's just one of many things designed to get attention as membership in the church steadily declines:
The United Church of Canada is launching the largest advertising campaign ever by a Canadian church in an attempt to spark debate about religious issues and encourage people to come back to the pews.
The series of advertisements poke fun at some traditions and tackle controversial topics such as sex and gay marriage.
One includes statues of two grooms on a wedding cake and asks, "Does anyone object?" Another features a can of whipped cream with the question, "How much fun can sex be before it's a sin?" Still another depicts a bobble-head Jesus on a car dashboard and asks, "Funny. Ticket to hell. What do you think?"
The $10.5-million project, to be officially unveiled today in Toronto, includes advertisements in magazines, community newspapers and on the Internet. It will also include the creation of a website called WonderCafe.ca which will feature discussion forums on a variety of social issues. The church also plans to hold seminars to teach its 3,500 congregations how to be more welcoming to newcomers.
There is very little substantial news reporting in the article, so if you're not a registered at the Globe and Mail site, don't let that disturb you. The only source for this article is the Rev. Keith Howard, who is heading the project, and a bunch of polling data. There is very little in the form of probing questions. Essentially here is Howard's plan, why he thinks it is important and some stats about the status of religion among Canadians. The same can be said, sadly, for this London Free Press article.
Also take a look at this WorldNetDaily piece by Ted Byfield. By no means do I want to associate myself with Byfield's opinion, because we try not to do that here at GetReligion, but I want to bring it to the discussion over how journalists can better cover the bobblehead movement.
Perhaps there are articles out there that bring a more critical (probing?) line of questioning. Rather than just repeating the official church line, maybe journalists could get into the meat of the issues that the church is dealing with.