Friday, September 30, 2005

Branding god

I have been going through more of Branded nation, and despite a quite slow and weak start, I have begun to enjoy the book more. Perhaps this is because it is a welcome excuse from plumbing in a dirty 2 foot crawl space in a 100 year old house. However, Twitchell's section on the branding involved in the megachurch movement was quite good.

We depend on the law to organize our human transactions. We consider that law comes from some mythic source. With us, that's the Constitution. The myth of the urtext holding everything together is central to the American brand of jurisprudence. It's not good to believe that it's every judge for himself or, worse, that there is a high degree of uncertainty built into the story. This is also true with religion.

From the lead in to this section of the book, it seems as if "the high degree of uncertainty" is one thing branding removes. One does not need to doubt the story behind the product. The manufactured connections pin down the product, concretizing it - solidifying the connections making it more immovable and life like - less abstract and ethereal. But, as I mentioned before, is the associated leavening caused by this concretization good?

It seems obvious that different people appreciate different levels of manufactured firmness in this regard. Or perhaps from a religious perspective it is better to say, different people need different degrees of religious absolutism. but the end of the paragraph, to me, is the kicker.

If we ever countenanced the possibility that man makes his gods in his own image, would we ever give ourselves over to the priest?

Countenancing this idea seems blasphemous. It is the ultimate priestcraft, the end road of the magachurch brand. And yet, to me, it seems like a very worthwhile question.

As LDS we believe that prophets do speak for god, perhaps not always in the form of a mathematical one to one mapping, but nonetheless in way whose net outcome must exceed that of any other method we could use. Now one could take the approach like I mused some time ago that the specific kingdom we achieve may depend on the model for god we are willing to accept and create in our lives. But the question still seems to remain, would we ever give ourselves over to a priestly divestiture of divine knowledge if cocneptions of god are subject to branding influences?

Perhaps religion is a much simpler product than we want to accept. Perhaps it really is nothing more than faith repentance and baptism, all done through Christ towards the Father. If this is the case, churches are in a predicament. People demand, overtly or not, a branded product. Yet the essence of religion may be the rejection of such etherals in favor of pragmatic certainty. In essence, it may be a rejection of feel good culturally created and appropriate associations in favor of lots of loose ends grounded by a few irrefutable testimonial pillars. Is religion a story providing helpful morals, or is it a mist surrounding an iron rod?

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