Ted Haggard Hawks Software

I attended the launch event for Windows Vista here in Indianapolis earlier this week. As I was listening to the speakers present, I was very much put in the mind of the clips of Pastor Ted Haggard in the movie Jesus Camp. The presenters that Microsoft uses often have the word ‘evangelist’ in their job titles, as in Product Evangelist. I understand what they’re trying to say with this kind of job title, but I can’t help but wonder if the individuals who fill these roles have taken the title literally.

I would describe both of the presenters that I saw as having that typical Christian appearance. They had on their business casual uniform and clean cut haircuts. They reminded me of some of the young men from Haggard’s New Life Church who took on new roles after Haggard left the church. Their appearance alone isn’t what cinches the deal for me. It’s also the way that they presented themselves and their content. The morning presenter was a little on the goofy side, very similar to the DJ Smiley who works on WZPL here in Indy. As I understand it, Smiley comes from an evangelical backgroud. The style of the afternoon presenter closely resembled the style of Ted Haggard. He told similar kinds of jokes and used gimmicks to capture the attention (and hopefully allegiance) of the audience. I wish I had some specific examples, but I didn’t write any down. This was just my impression sitting in the audience.

I’ve been concerned for awhile about the use of evangelism to sell products and recruit employees. When The Home Depot came to Indy a few years back, they used an evalengical approach to recruit people. From what I’ve been told by people who attended some of these sessions, they found themselves drawn in and saying ‘yes’ even though they knew rationally that it was too good to be true. I wonder if the evangelical style causes people to suspend their rational selves and allow faith to take over. If it happens at church, it seems like it could happen at a seminar too.

If Microsoft and other large companies have to resort to this kind of trickery and gimmicks to sell their wares, then this is capitalism at its worst. To evoke the behavioral patterns that people display at church in the marketplace is manipulative and irresponsible. I don’t think these individual presenters are to blame. Rather, I think the language of evangelism took over and influenced Microsoft’s systemic behavior as it relates to their hiring and retention practices. One way to know for sure – How much diversity is there among the group of presenters and product evangelists? If they all look the same, then that’s a problem.

When people stop thinking critically and instead give themselves over to whichever company ignites their passions, then we’re opening ourselves up to manipulation. If it’s happening in selling and recruiting, then this has a significant impact on our economy. Employees can be convinced to give up good paying jobs with benefits to take jobs with companies they “believe” in. Business people can be convinced to buy products that their companies don’t need simply because they want to belong and squelch that uneasy feeling of uncertainty that happens when you step outside the group. It makes me nervous for our future.