Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Before I came into my current position as The Queen of Awesomeness (also known as Stay at Home Mom; hey, if I don’t get paid, at least I can give myself promotions in title only), I was the personal assistant to the head and founder of an organization that shall remain nameless. My boss was a bit bi-polar in his office demeanor, one day perfectly amiable and fun to work under, the next day spitting nails over a single hair being out-of-place.
I mention this, because the physical appearance of his employees was of particular importance to him; in addition to the normal business-attire dress code found in many office policies, he was very particular that all female employees wore makeup– especially lipstick. Lip gloss was not acceptable; it had to be lipstick. I often jokingly wondered if there were specific office-approved lipstick colors, and I would have asked if I’d believed I could keep a straight face.
I have no problem with make-up. I am a firm believer in enhancing one’s natural beauty, and I tend to wear make-up nearly every day, rarely venturing outside the house without some on. However, I am not convinced of lipstick’s benefits. It’s always smearing, getting on my coffee cups, fading, and needing to be reapplied. And, don’t get me started on those supposed “12 hour wear” kinds. They just crack and make it look like you have the lips of an 80-year-old with horrible lipstick applying skills. It really isn’t an attractive look.
While most days I applied lipstick before leaving for work, I usually did not take the trouble to reapply it every 10 minutes. That is, unless my boss was having one of his “shoot anything in sight” kind of days. On one of those particular days, I was feverishly working to finish up some time-sensitive projects and did not check my make-up before he came in to the office. Shortly after he arrived, he called me into his office and said, very sternly, “I have told you time and again to keep your lipstick on. This is your final warning. If I have to tell you once more to put on your lipstick, you will be done here.”
This was the only issue regarding my appearance or my performance that my boss had mentioned for at least 6 months. In fact, he had on numerous occasions complimented me on my stellar work and repeatedly told me that I was “indispensable” to him. Apparently that was only applied if I was wearing lipstick. I should mention that a couple of weeks later I arrived to work without a stitch of lipstick on, with nary a comment or pink slip. Bluff called.
My bosses’ obsession with lipstick didn’t end there. His organization held frequent meetings for leaders and the general community, however the building we occupied was a large warehouse in need of some serious remodeling. Not having the funds to do a complete renovation, he told us to “slap a little lipstick on it”. That is, he wanted us to distract from the flaws with a cheap veneer.
I don’t tell you this anecdote to rail on my former boss. While I am quite happy to no longer work for the man, I do sincerely wish him well. Rather, I tell this story to illustrate an issue that was once an issue mainly in the culture at large, but is now pervasive in churches and ministries today: obsession with image.
Branding and marketing, formerly reserved for businesses and products, has now become a widespread tool among ministries and churches seeking to be culturally relevant, better able to “market” the church to their communities, or maybe just plain cool. Church names now border on the bizarre, often sounding more like clothing stores names than church names. Worship teams, or house bands if you are in a more “relevant” church, may even use smoke machines or crazy light shows during the worship service. Even church buildings have been given a makeover, with new churches popping up in refurbished storefronts, warehouses, or even movie theaters, often looking more like a club or concert arena than the traditional church building.
Please do not mistake me; I do not think any of this is inherently bad. These can all be wonderful expressions of the church body and worship. However, the danger is giving it too much focus. The image of the church leadership, building, worship style, or witness method (if you want to consider marketing a witnessing method), should not supersede being bearers of the image of Christ. When it appears that churches or ministries spend most of their resources and time branding and marketing their image, I often suspect all the shining packaging is hiding some cracks beneath the surface, much like the warehouse that housed my former bosses’ organization.
As I stated earlier, I have no problem using make-up to enhance personal beauty. But there’s enhancing personal beauty and…. trying mask your entire face to hide real or perceived flaws. Are we, the Church, using these tools to enhance the good or hide the ugly? At the very least, The Church should not tart itself up with gaudy lipstick to woo suitors. That is merely a cheap façade, masking The Church’s true beauty, current flaws and all.
Photo Credit: Sabbath Photography