Cute, Sweet Christian Marketing: Cotton Candy vs. Solid Food

In our family we have an oft-used phrase, “If it’s cute, it has to be sweet.”   This is a line from “The Cute Woman” in David Byrne’s amazing movie, True Stories, one of my all-time favorites in which tabloid vignettes are set to music and woven together in a quirky movie.  There’s a character who is all about pink and cute, butterflies, feathers, sugary-spice language. And she says something like, “If it’s cute, it has to be sweet.”  Which of course means nothing. And everything.

Without knowing it, the cute woman is describing a stereotype of Christian women — that we all love things that are cute and sweet and that they feed our souls.  When in fact they’re sometimes just cotton candy.

I’m not against beauty; I’m questioning marketing.  I believe that we are meant to emulate our Creator, who is all about beauty and order and glory.  I love creativity.  I love beautiful things, man-made or “original version.”  I think we honor God when we accept, with gratitude, as much beauty as we can stuff into our lives.  I believe we need feasting and I believe there’s a reason that Sabbath is commanded, not offered.  Accepting those gifts is worship.

What I’m questioning is a phenomenon within Christian culture, particularly within the realm of “women’s ministry” and women’s retreats, wherein women are plastered with cute and sweet things in the name of Jesus.  Metaphorically and actually.  I think we’re doing each other a disservice to have our times together be about pampering and not about being re-equipped for the battle of life.

I can hear the objections now, and they are valid: we need Sabbath, we need refreshing, we do need to get away to relax and come back to our lives ready for the next lap, and why not give favors that feel like treats to women?  Amen.  I agree.  So perhaps this is simply a matter of emphasis, not disagreement.
Where is the focus?  We are called to love the poor, to engage the broken, to bring good news, to set the prisoners free.  And I feel like Christian women gather to soothe each other, instead of urging each other on in the battle.   We gather and say that life is good, God is good, in fact, really, everything is good.  But other than God being good, the rest of that is impartially true.

Most of us don’t live in victory over our troubles.  Most of us are lonely and quietly struggling, putting on masks of pretense.Some women are even in dire need, in extreme psychic pain, living with abuse or in fear.

And party favors aren’t going to address those needs.

Obviously this is just a metaphor for something.  I’m not really so grumpy about a few sachets and flowery bookmarks.  They’re nice.  They express love and care.

But I want more for all of us. We encounter Jesus more through giving ourselves and our resources away than through amassing more Christian-themed, heavily-marketed-to-women trinkets.  Maybe when we gather, we could give a gift to a needs-meeting organization in celebration of our time together and agree that we don’t really benefit from more gifts for us, that the time spent on them is only time well spent if it’s a particular person’s joy to prepare such things, and that we can offer each other more if we express the “you are not alone” messages that our honesty can impart, even as we point each other to living water and solid food.

I’d love to hear what others think about this.  In short, I’m advocating rethinking what nourishes us and what we most need.

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~ by Cary on September 25, 2010.

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