We see it all the time – repackaging and re-branding the same product, so we can increase sales and make people buy more. Take Tampons, for instance.
One of my kids pulled one of my tampons out of my purse. It looked “fun” and “hip”. It looked like candy to them. Yeah, no.
Remember when tampons looked like this?
Yeah. No kid would pull that out thinking it’s something awesome and sweet.
Now they look like this:
Which could easily be mistaken for one of these at first glance:
But, really. Have tampons changed that much? Isn’t it the same old wad of cotton attached to a string?
Or, take BP for instance. (Yeah, the oil company.)
Even before the spill debacle of 2010, they were the Big Oil Company Who Doesn’t Care About People or the Environment. But the spill made them reconsider their marketing strategy. Now, according to their latest commercials, they are
“Supporting communities, preserving the environment: In other words, we have a long-term commitment to the communities we work within. As such, we recognize a responsibility to create more than quick revenues from our investments. Whatever we do, wherever we do it, we always strive to preserve and improve the surrounding environment, support enterprising business people and encourage energy-related education.”
Uh huh. I’m buying it, aren’t you?
Same old oil, new package. Forgive me if I’m skeptical that they are actually doing more good than harm, or that they are motivated by more than money and public outrage.
I have seen Christianity re-brand and repackage itself too many times to count. I hoped at first that it was real. Like an abused spouse, I kept going back, thinking “This time it will be different. This time he’s really changed.”
Then – BAM! Walloped across the face with legalism and “us against them” theology.
Around 1985 (give or take a few years), a new movement started in Christianity called “Emergent” Christianity, or the “Emergent Church.” Once more, the ideas sounded good – acceptance, tolerance, social justice, open dialogue. Words, words, words.
The values sound amazing. The writers and speakers – leaders of this movement – sound authentic and like they are really trying. But 28 years later, maybe emergence Christianity is dead. Or maybe it has, like so many other reformations, morphed back into mainstream Christianity. Or, worse, the new “coffeehouse” Christianity we have today is somehow a veneered result of Emergent Christianity. In any case, I’m out. Repackaged and resold, I still find the “cutting edge” mega churches I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot here) are selling the same message, only this time with a shiny candy wrapper.
Then, by accident, I discovered Peter Rollins. I listened skeptically to his message (which, I must say, bears a strong resemblance to the Emergent Christianity movement). He is talking about pyrotheology:
By theoretically setting fire to the layers of belief we put over reality to protect ourselves from reality, pyrotheology seeks to ignite a sense of greater depth in life beyond the need for wholeness and certainty. Pyrotheology explores how the events testified to in the founding documents of Christianity invite us to fully embrace the reality of our brokenness and unknowing.
I hear that, I truly do. But I’m skeptical. Is this just another repackaging of faith? A new way to market it to the un-churched? An attempt to re-church the ex-churched?
For myself, I can say that at this point in my life, I feel betrayed by the church. I feel like I’ve been lied to and deceived, if at times complicit in my own deception. I don’t have answers, and it seems the more I embrace the knowledge that I don’t have answers, the more uncertain I become. But I’m cautiously excited about a brand of theology that wants to take down the walls between “us” and “them” and admit that until we come to the realization that there is “that of God” in all of us, we will never be whole.
Pyrotheology appears to be a step in the right direction, but for the thousands of ex-churched like me, is it enough to make us trust the church again?
I guess it remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful.