The adverts always show happy, beautiful, people using a product to enhance their status and, standing.
Think of the absurdity of branding for a moment;
Branding asks us to define ourselves in relation to a manufactured (i.e. man made) product or service. Branding also creates group identity, thereby undermining our individuality and getting us to think in terms of in,and out,groups.This is fine so long as you qualify for the in group (buyer beware you qualification is always temporary and provisional!). If you qualify you can create an illusionary world believing that you really, truly, relate to whichever celebratory is being paid to champion the brand, and other users. Branding seeks to truly mark people. The vast majority of the ‘value’ offered by a specific consumer brand is intangible (intangible is a much more sophisticated word than vacuous!)
Blessing also marks people and communities. When people are blessed they are marked not intangibly but indelibly, by God. As Christians we are called on to bless and not brand.
Blessing requires us to look beyond the exterior to the interior and its potential.Branding is concerned, primarily, with the exterior. What you wear, carry, use are all important. The brand cannot exist without its physical attributes. Which brings me back to the beautiful people!
Let’s be honest few, if any, of us are really beautiful! Just go to a local swimming pool or gym and this will become immediately obvious. Buying a brand is not going to make you,or me,a beautiful person,still less is it going to give us a beautiful mind,or a warm heart.
Blessing might, however.
One more thought: three of the biggest heroes of the Christian faith were far from perfect physical specimens. Jacob walked with a distinctive limp, St. Paul had a thorn in his side that seemed to cause him significant pain and discomfort, and what about Jesus? I love the idea of the risen Christ limping along the road to Emmaus and then revealing his wounds to his friends, the disciples.
Jesus, Paul and Jacob would not have been signed up as brand champions, or endorsers. Neither should we. In fact Scripture urges us not to worry about what we should wear or eat (Matthew 6, 25-34). Scripture reminds us that our identity is shaped through blessing and,not brand.
I have recently been spending a significant amount of time with members of Disability Target Shooting G.B. Most of their high performance athletes get what it means to be blessed, which is fantastic, given that very few of them would be obvious candidates for selection as brand champions endorsers.
But here’s my niggle: are our churches too branded, overly populated by the beautiful people. Do our churches spend too much time worrying about what our worship groups and choirs look like? Our we overly concerned with externalities and customer satisfaction?
Hopefully not, for the Church is called on to embody Christ and, he was seriously wounded, or if you like, disabled.