Throughout high school I loved wearing skater clothes. I always struggled hard to make sure I had an O’neil hoodie or Quicksilver pants or Etnies Shoes. I would search the clothing stores for tags; the style didn’t matter cause I figured it was in if it had the tag that I knew I liked. Why I liked it is beyond me, I just knew I liked it. For some reason the colour choices and lengths and cuts just fit my body properly and I felt good when I put it on. Then one day someone said out loud around me that they don’t where brands because it made no sense to pay a company to advertise for them. It made sense to me and ever since I’ve come to dissociate myself with brands.
Brands do funny things to people. Brands are built to attach themselves to people’s emotions and their values. Marketers are trained to make brands appealing and lucrative to us so we feel as if we need the brand to complete ourselves. How genius is that? Make a product and then somehow convince people that they aren’t people without it. Have you ever insulted a brand that someone adores, or a brand that gives someone value? They will defend the lifeless brand as if it is them personally you are insulting. Try it sometime. Make fun of Hillsongs to someone who loves them. Make a comment about Nike using sweatshops to a Nike shoe lover. Tell someone they don’t need their $1000 Prada purse. Brands have become so attached to people that people can’t see themselves apart from them. Their value is entangled up in these brands.
In a way patriotism is a branding of sorts. Tell someone that their value is in being an American, or a Canadian enough and eventually they will believe it. You end up having a country full of empty people fighting for an empty brand.
And then here enters the church, Jesus and Christianity. We live in a brand saturated world and so our first instinct is to offer yet another brand to everyone hoping that this brand will outlast all the others; after all we got Jesus and that’s really what everyone needs. People end up getting value from their brand and then up defending their brand. The brand comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s the cool emergent church, or the high church, or the charismatic church. Sometimes it’s just our bible or our Christian music. Then sometimes we brand morality. We have to live a certain way, a certain style to be accepted. Not swearing is as cool as expensive purses.
Branding is a thick layer covering who we really are. We can barely picture a world separate from our brands. We can barely picture or value ourselves separate from them. It smothers everything. Yet we need to fight through this and receive our value from who we are, and not what we do or have. Brands only have the power that we give them. We don’t have to be bound by them and our lives dictated by them. We are not cooler, more successful or have more value because of the church we go to, car we drive, clothes we wear, house we live in, country we live in, electronics we have yet over and over again we convince ourselves we are.
The only image I want to carry is God’s. I’m created in his image. Let us continue to strip down all these other images that wish us to represent them. Let us keep in mind that they are empty, draining and only have the value we give them. Our value comes from being created in his image and no one else’s.