Sunday, April 27, 2008

Beards and Inadequacies

(I hope the title isn't too Freudian...)

Today, I had an epiphany. We were speaking in Elder's Quorum about the "weak and simple" and the feelings of inadequacy we might have. (We were also making quilts and knitting bandages for leper colonies. I am told that in Relief Society they grilled steaks and watched Gladiator.)

In any case, I found some of the comments most revealing:

"On my mission, I never got called to any positions of leadership. I always wondered what was wrong with me. Were my numbers not good enough? Did I need to baptize more?"

"In one district I served in there were five District Presidents in a row who went inactive after being released. They all said that they felt like they had been fired––like they hadn't done well enough in their callings."

There were many more comments along those same lines. It made me wonder what the problem was. And then, suddenly, it came to me.

I looked around and realized we were all dressed like businessmen. Suits, ties, white shirts, short hair. It could have been a board meeting. I'm willing to bet at least half of those in attendance own copies of Seven Habits of Highly Pretentious People. With our perverse focus on corporate image in the church, our preoccupation with looking the part, is it any wonder that we tend to look at success or failure in corporate terms?

"Were my numbers not good enough?" Why didn't I get the promotion?

"Why was I fired as District President?"

An unfortunate part of missionary work is acculturalization: making wards and stakes all over the earth in the image of Happy Valley. (For instance, consider the account I just read about missionaries in Japan spending an evening with the ward to teach them how to celebrate Halloween.) This conflation of American culture and corporate ideals with the gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing short of pernicious. I suspect that it is somewhat driven by the fact that many (most?) Mission Presidents tend to be successful businessmen or lawyers. They are, after all, the ones with the cash and leisure time to go serve in such a position. They have administrative experience.

Is it any wonder, then, that branches of The One Holy and Apostolic Church sometimes look and behave like little more than franchise members of McMormon, Inc.? ("Have it OUR way!")

Well, I, for one, won't stand for it. I hope, friends, that you will join with me in this rejection of corporate paradigms, and resist the subjugation of Consecration to Capitalism.

Of course, one is forced to ask the question: Would we be facing this problem if we had just kept the beards? I understand the desire not to look like hippies, but I think the greater challenges we face today demand that we not look like CEOs.

Join with me, brethren. Save the Church, and exercise your god-given right to scruff!