Religion doesn’t tend to be one of those common YouTube themes — while many YouTubers are certainly religious, it tends to be one of those polarizing topics that can be costly in the subscriber department.
And then there are the Shaytards.
Shay Carl and his lively brood have never steered away from the fact that they are Mormons, a particularly fundamentalist tenet of Christianity. If anything, that aspect has probably helped them in their cause, as Mormons tend to look after their own (see: box office numbers for “Napoleon Dynamite”).
But now Shay may be using his YouTube celebrity to do some recruiting on behalf of the Mormon church, and an uncomfortable question has surfaced: Where is the line in YouTubers using their celebrity to recruit or sell to their youthful fanbase?
Posting the event to their Facebook page, the Shaytards will be speaking/bearing their testimony (“Mormanese” for proselytizing via personal experience) on May 28 at a So. Cal. Latter Day Saint (synonym for Mormon) church. They directly state that all are welcome, including children and people under 17. In addition to speaking about their experiences within the church, they will only be taking questions from people curious about the religion. In effect, this is a recruiting session cloaked in a sort of celebrity meet and greet. It’s sort of like going to meet Justin Bieber at an autograph signing, but he’ll only sign bottles of Wild Turkey “Rare Breed” Whiskey — with that smoky flavor and downhome notes of hickory and pure Kentucky pepper. While it’s clear that there aren’t sinister undertones here — after all, Shay and co. just want to share their positive experience with the masses — there is a reason that cigarette and toy companies get in trouble for directing their brand towards children. Children are impressionable, easily swayed and incapable of making these sorts of decisions on their own.
A few years ago, Bart Simpson began making calls on behalf of Scientology (Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, is a Scientologist); and it caused a major kerfuffle. Sure there are proprietary issues regarding who actually owns the “Bart Simpson voice” — that Shay Carl doesn’t have — but the moral issue remains: should there be a separation between church and YouTube? Or are young viewers fair game to be lead around with sort of Pied Piper machinations?
Obviously this is a delicate topic because we like Shay Carl and the Shaytards a whole bunch, and partly, I think it is their openness about their beliefs that ultimately makes this sort of maneuvering okay for them. If they suddenly switched gears and began trying to recruit followers after building up a sizeable fanbase with non-religious-based content, that would be one thing. But the Shaytards actively promote a healthy and loving family interaction as their schtick. And being Mormon, for them, is a huge part of that dynamic.
Here is an interesting quote from a previous interview we did with Shay Carl:
I leave our faith out of it a lot just because sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it in the comments. The official name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The nickname of our church is Mormons. We’re Mormons. I kind of don’t talk about it a lot. I could talk about it a lot more. Honestly, a lot of the answers to the questions that people ask me, “Why are you so happy,” and stuff, is because of our faith and what we believe. It’s not crazy. I know there’s a lot of stereotypes of Mormons and stuff like that. We believe that our family is sealed forever. That’s kind of the basis of our belief. Me and my wife believe that we are married for not only until death do us part but we believe because of our faith that we are sealed for time and eternity. We believe that we live after this life, and we believe that we will remain in this relationship after we die and that our children are sealed with us and that we’re an eternal family and that we’ll always be together. That basis and that feeling of that we’re just this little unit of people who are family. We’re brothers and sisters but still at the same time it’s cool to be able to figure out life together in a sense that we’re teaching our kids. We’re religious and we’re Mormons, and I don’t talk about it a lot because of the comments and people are freaking out in these giants fights in the comments break out. Sometimes it’s not worth it. I did a funny video the other day where I was at church, and I was filming myself in front of the church with the sign of the church behind me saying, “You guys always ask me which church we go to, and I just really don’t want to talk about it. I want to keep that private,” but the sign is really big and then of course in the comments they’re like, “The sign was behind you!” and people are fighting and people take it too serious sometimes. Anyway, yeah, we’re Mormons. I don’t hide it, but I don’t come out and shove it down people’s throat.
Of course, at the end of the day, everyone has their own channel to manage and they can put whatever they want on it. YouTube is by no means an exact science — if a creator thinks they can get advertising verticals by starting a suicide cult, more power to them. And knowing us, we’ll probably cover them with a “5 Best YouTube Suicide Cult Channels You Should Be Joining” type article.
Hmm, maybe we could benefit from going to that Shaytards thing after all?
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