Brand Name

By David B. Smith

Photo by Pexels

A red Christmas bow perched on a shiny new car makes you immediately think of a Lexus. Even the first musical notes of a familiar theme can warn viewers that a Cialis TV ad is about to air. Successful branding happens when words build a reputation: “You’re in good hands.”

So how is our Christian brand doing these days?

I teach math at a community college. Pretty much all my students know I’m a Christian – and what assurances do they draw from that brand name? I hope they connect it to hard work, impeccable preparation, an unfailingly cheerful ambiance in the classroom. That it promises them fair grades, timely paperwork, up-to-date reporting of quiz scores. That it assures the females on our campus – and Valley College is populated by many beautiful coeds – my professional demeanor and marital integrity.

The Sermon on the Mount is an extended infomercial telling a curious world that the true Christian brand will produce citizens who follow the Golden Rule, return good for evil, relentlessly forgive others, suffer indignities, vote for and pray for political leaders in a spirit of quiet support and concern. They will generously feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for widows, clothe the destitute, be Big Brothers and Sisters, and visit the Death Row inmates.

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey laments that for too many cynics looking on, the Christian brand has been reduced to a grisly pro-life poster at a rally and political witch-hunts against the homosexual agenda. On the other hand, there indeed are many Christians whose passion is to work protecting the lives of the unborn . . . while being equally concerned with giving their neighbors a glimpse of a kingdom brand that is self-effacing, caring, and gently aware that there are two sides to every tragic decision made in a doctor’s office.

When incoming President Obama asked Joe Biden to be his running mate, the garrulous senator said yes – on two conditions: “I won’t wear funny hats,” he stated. “And I won’t mess with my brand.” Interpret that any way you will, but a Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential race recently faced a debate audience and was asked about interrogation techniques. “We have a brand name in the world,” he reminded them. “We stand for important ideals. There are some compromises America just can never make; they dilute the values we have built up with that global brand for two hundred years.”

And so it is for the kingdom of heaven. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, Jesus once observed in a frank "Madison Avenue ad" that went viral for the New Jerusalem: “If you have love for one another.”