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Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Branded: The Iconoclasm of Marketing

Editor’s note: Wesleyan Accent fully appreciates the arts and the significant gift of creatively expressing truth, beauty and goodness: for more, consider this piece from Relevant magazine, Design Should Matter More to Christians.

This is not an anti-technology diatribe.

There are enough diatribes in the world, I think: talking heads, Facebook rants, raised fists and honking horns etching anger for a permanent moment of rush hour that hangs now in the universe reflecting our contorted faces back to us. What if I died in that moment? The moment of my life when my face betrayed the ugliest, most conniving, grasping lust for getting my own way? (Gollum, anyone?) What if I died in the moment when my face softly revealed the most loving, joyous, celebratory delight in someone else?

Which person am I? 

Oh, the pilgrim’s progress. I am pilgrim, wandering from grace to grace. Sometimes the ordo salutis leads to bloodied knees.

Only how do you market bloodied knees?

I’m so glad the Desert Fathers and Mothers weren’t on Twitter.

Instead of a diatribe, let’s try confession, towards which we’ve recently been so beautifully encouraged.

Confession: I am a marketer’s dream. I have brought home a bulging plastic grocery bag with one item particularly chosen due only to its packaging. Who cares how it tastes? It was on the list, and the font on the front – oh, the font – it spoke to me. Once on a flight I sat next to someone whose job it was to extend a net over shoppers just like me. We chatted about the psychology of it all, color and design and that marketer’s dream, the moment of delight when you reach out and have to touch the box.

Of course, carefully hidden out of customers’ sight is the less romantic reality of plastic-wrapped pallets stacked high with identical products being forklifted to other people by hungover operators wondering if their ex-wives are going to let this weekend with the kids be drama-free. Bill’s picture doesn’t make it to the front of the package.

Just like Golden Globe red carpet coverage doesn’t start at 6 am with a make-up free actress smoking, downing a kale smoothie and working out for three hours while snapping at her personal assistant to take the dog out.

Confession: I love to market. It’s like giving a persuasive speech, and I’ve always loved to argue. More than that, it’s fun to promote something I care about, to engage others I may never meet. I’ve written promotional copy for websites – nonprofit and academic – I’ve conceived of words to explain why alumni should think about giving gift annuities, I’ve written a speech for someone else that brought listeners to tears.

Words are a gift, language is a gift, and whatever your views on evolutionary biology, there is still such a leap between us and the most communicative of animals that I believe expression is one of the most God-like things we can do (in the beginning was the Logos-Word…). Let there be, and there was.

No, technology, and words, and mass communications, and persuasion are all good.

Until they’re not.

We pilgrims with the bloodied knees have ways of ever-so-slightly twisting focus, blighted with spiritual astigmatism. Instead of a diatribe, let’s try confession.

We do not need to try to brand Christ. We need to receive the brand of Jesus Christ.

By all means, have a good church website. By all means, use your words to draw people to the Messiah. By all means, be smart and use your best resources.

But be warned: the moment you slip from branding as an evangelistic tool to branding God, your logos and graphics have slipped from tool in service to God to weapon of iconoclasm – destroying an image. Hashtag simony. We do not create Team Trinity.

We are called to receive the brand of Jesus Christ (not his motivational verse t-shirt). Christ imprints himself on our thoughts, our emotions, our decisions. By his stripes we are healed, and there is no web analytics metric to measure the bleeding back of Word Made Flesh. We are called to be made into the image of God, to be bearers of God’s image, and anything that eats away at the image of God in us is violently iconoclastic.

There is a fine line between marketing the church and marketing the faith; between marketing the faith and marketing Christ crucified like scalpers on the street corner gambling over his clothes. Receiving the brand of Jesus Christ on our souls runs deeper than the most ardent Yankee fan’s tattoo. We are not called to be Jesus’ #numberonefan.

And so, let us confess our sins to God and one another: we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent…