Business gets religion

Marketplace Staff Sep 19, 2006

Business gets religion

Marketplace Staff Sep 19, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Fox’s movie studio is expected to unveil a new venture today: Up to a dozen films a year targeting Christians. Fox Filmed Entertainment is the same company that brought shows like the Simpsons and Temptation Island to TV. The new project, FoxFaith will release at least half its films in theaters. The first movie, “Love’s Abiding Joy,” comes out in a couple weeks.All kinds of Christian-themed business ventures are popping up now. They’re trying to cash in on the niche market of 90 million evangelicals. Alex Goldmark tells us about Faith Mobile — church on a cell phone.

ALEX GOLDMARK: I’m not all that attached to my mobile phone or to a church for that matter, but I still wanted to hear what a cell phone devotional was, which by the way, could also come as a text message.

MARTHA COTTON: They’re very powerful text messages.

Martha Cotton is co-founder of faith mobile. And a devout believer in the spiritual power of the cell phone.

COTTON: We say, use the mobile phone to stay in touch with what you believe in, as well as stay in touch with your friends.

She thinks born-again Christians are a huge growth market for her religious products like Christian ringtones and inspirational messages. And it’s been easy to find funders to back her belief.

COTTON: There’s a lot of capital to go around. You know we have a saying in the Christian community, you know, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He can sell a few and fund us.

Faith focused investors are funding all sorts of products, like Christian car insurance.

FaithGuard car insurance waives your deductible if you’re in an accident on your way to or from a church function, or, as it happened to Pastor Jim Goforth, in an empty church parking lot.

GOFORTH: Normally, I would have to pay that deductible, get my car fixed while they sorted the whole thing out, and then they would send me my money back, in this case I just got my car fixed.

Now you may not think too many accidents happen on the way to Sunday service. But FaithGuard is basically deductible-free car insurance for clergy, because everywhere they go is church related. And offering that product sends a values message to the whole congregation of potential customers who want to support companies that support what they do, like when they give to church.

JIM WALLACE: Another real popular benefit is the tithing benefit. So if you get disabled in an auto that we insure we’ll cover your tithing.

Jim Wallace is CEO of GuideOne insurance, the creator of FaithGuard. And though technically, these discounts make it cheaper to be a churchgoer, he says he’s motivated by the bottom line, not a higher calling.

WALLACE: I can’t say that it’s a corporate mission to cause more folks to go to church. I personally think that’s a wonderful thing, but our objective was to serve a market so these benefits were designed to be attractive to people who go to church.

A faithful customer is a faithful customer.

In New York, I’m Alex Goldmark, for Marketplace.

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