Long before branding metamorphosed into a megabucks business, a small horde of society’s dregs changed the face of the 1st century. They were basically uneducated in the Roman and Greek classics. They were commoners and only few could read and write. They were mainly fishermen and tradesmen whose voices could not reach the corridors of power since theirs were muffled by their low socioeconomic status. Somehow, they banded around a man of lowly birth and means, whose personality they found irresistible. He made them look inwards to see that imprinted in their hearts was the insignia and image of the Almighty God, “Imago Deo”. He gave them hope and above all, he caused their minds to be enlightened to such a level that they believed in themselves and their ability to change the world. They were fearless and no weapon of established hegemony was enough to deter them. They had no physical armory but wielded power of divine dimension that made the Roman Army fear them, while the Jewish religious leaders and custodians loathed and envied them altogether.
Threatened by their rising profile, the religious and political authorities united to subjugate and decimate them. But the more they persecuted and hounded them, the more they thrived and spread in prominence and strength. Onlookers in
The corporate world is ruled by branding and a successfully branded product or service is sure to outpace its competitors and rake in more sales at any given point. Hence copywriters, brand managers, brand designers, and graphic artists who think outside the box have been working assiduously to create brands and adverts that would make their brand unique and exceptional. Though efforts are made to create, promote and market a brand through eye-catching and heart-pulling adverts, what keeps a brand going is the consistency of the quality of its content. It is not the sophistry and attractiveness of the packaging and catch-phrase that gets the customer to buy or depend on a product. Rather, a brand-loyalty and continued support by customers is assured when the latter’s expectations are matched by the utility and quality offered by the brand. Hence in branding parlance, it is said that ‘a good product always sells itself’; through its ‘unique selling point’.
A corporate entity that is its branding would normally invest in R & D, especially market research to ascertain how it is performing in the minds of its clients. They would also research on how best they are perceived by those who love or hate them. They would not disregard the opinions of their critics or the activities of their competitors. Based on the outcome of their extensive research, products and services are designed to be at the cutting edge. And to ensure consistency of quality, all products are subjected to quality assurance tests before they are pushed into the open market. And if faulty ones slip through unnoticed, they are usually recalled back and destroyed at the expense of the brand owner to avoid any dent on the brand’s name. In such a case, a re-calibration of the tools and machinery used may become necessary.
Having laid this foundation, I would want to dare to bring the contemporary brand of Christianity into scrutiny and being a Christian myself; I make no apologies for my views which are based on my personal opinion and not on empirical or brand-oriented research. Christianity like I earlier said became a veritable brand at
In my sincere opinion, the contemporary brand of Christianity in
In corporate offices, Christian professionals speak clichés and ‘christianees’ but we live an ambivalent life that has no bearing on our supposed faith that is linked to the Apostles and Prophets of old. We seem incapacitated by the conflicting and hypocritical lives they live to be able to sell their Christian brand because we have failed to live out the example expected of the brand we are to promote. No congregation or denomination has been found to live above board; the Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals alike. Though my focus is not on the seemingly conservative churches, not for want of evidence, I am particularly irked and disappointed by the brand called ‘Pentecostalism’ which I sadly have been a part of for over 10 years.
A Pentecostal church can be found within every measurable kilometer in Nigerian cities and suburbs but the moral quality of the lives of the professing members lives nothing to be desired. The magnificence of the buildings where the sermons are preached and heard is paled by the weak witness of the multitudes that exit the edifices every Sunday. We criticize the government as being undemocratic, insensitive to human sufferings and corrupt, but our churches are built as castles where despotic theocrats and hegemonies rule and reign with absolute power, leaving the followers in spiritual poverty and subjugation. A lot of Pentecostal churches are run like one-man businesses with a winner-takes-it-all mentality with no recourse to accountability and financial transparency which was a mark of the early church. We have widened the dichotomy between secular work and ministerial work such that church members who miss out weekly services are labeled as promoting the cause of
We promote the sanctity of human life but haven’t quite added much value to living generally. Our private schools and universities are the most expensive yet the missionary schools built by orthodox Christians trained us for free, yet we label them as ‘dead churches’. We proclaim the sanctity of marriage and family life yet our lives are mired by utter hypocrisy, infidelity and promiscuity. Divorces hardly happen in orthodox churches but some Pentecostal pastors and members have had non-plausible and scandalous divorces that went through easily, and they remarried without a care in this world. The stunned world watches in shock and trepidation at these Christians whose lot is to bring healing and change to our dying and sick world.
Little wonder we’ve lost our biblical saltiness; our value and essence; hence have been truly trampled upon and lost our redemptive voice. In the yore years of Pentecostal Christianity in
One of the unique selling points of the Christian brand is its consistent stance on the absoluteness of moral and ethical conduct. But today, the Christian brand seem to have a vacillating moral value system which more or less reflects the moral decadence in the wider society which it was originally created to reverse. Moral scandals of pastors having tryst with female church members are no longer news item for soft sell and gossip tabloids. In essence, society’s celebrities now share the headlines with Pentecostal pastors. The brand promoters and marketers (the congregation) on the other hand are not wary of showcasing and distributing the distorted brand which they are so comfortable with. Hence churches burst at the seams on Sundays from Mondays to Saturdays; the Christian brand becomes submerged and subsumed into the moral morass of the wider society. If the doctor who is to treat a patient becomes a patient, anarchy and hopelessness would become imminent.
The contemporary brand of Christianity in